Choosing a new comment policy

Update (July 13): I was honored to read this post by my friend Boaz Barak.

Update (July 14): By now, comments on this post allegedly from four CS professors — namely, Josh Alman, Aloni Cohen, Rana Hanocka, and Anna Farzindar — as well as from the graduate student “BA,” have been unmasked as from impersonator(s).

I’ve been the target of a motivated attack-troll (or multiple trolls, but I now believe just one) who knows about the CS community. This might be the single weirdest thing that’s happened to me in 17 years of blogging, surpassing even the legendary Ricoh printer episode of 2007. It obviously underscores the need for a new, stricter comment policy, which is what this whole post was about.

Yesterday and today, both my work and my enjoyment of the James Webb images were interrupted by an anonymous troll, who used the Shtetl-Optimized comment section to heap libelous abuse on me—derailing an anodyne quantum computing discussion to opine at length about how I’m a disgusting creep who surely, probably, maybe has lewd thoughts about his female students. Unwisely or not, I allowed it all to appear, and replied to all of it. I had a few reasons: I wanted to prove that I’m now strong enough to withstand bullying that might once have driven me to suicide. I wanted, frankly, many readers to come to my defense (thanks to those who did!). I at least wanted readers to see firsthand what I now regularly deal with: the emotional price of maintaining this blog. Most of all, I wanted my feminist, social-justice-supporting readers to either explicitly endorse or (hopefully) explicitly repudiate the unambiguous harassment that was now being gleefully committed in their name.

Then, though, the same commenter upped the ante further, by heaping misogynistic abuse on my wife Dana—while still, ludicrously and incongruously, cloaking themselves in the rhetoric of social justice. Yes: apparently the woke, feminist thing to do is now to rate female computer scientists on their looks.

Let me be blunt: I cannot continue to write Shtetl-Optimized while dealing with regular harassment of me and my family. At the same time, I’m also determined not to “surrender to the terrorists.” So, I’m weighing the following options:

• Close comments except to commenters who provide a real identity—e.g., a full real name, a matching email address, a website.
• Move to Substack, and then allow only commenters who’ve signed up.
• Hire someone to pre-screen comments for me, and delete ones that are abusive or harassing (to me or others) before I even see them. (Any volunteers??)
• Make the comment sections for readers only, eliminating any expectation that I’ll participate.

One thing that’s clear is that the status quo will not continue. I can’t “just delete” harassing or abusive comments, because the trolls have gotten too good at triggering me, and they will continue to weaponize my openness and my ethic of responding to all possible arguments against me.

So, regular readers: what do you prefer?

352 Responses to “Choosing a new comment policy”

1. Dominic Cummings Says:

I’d contribute to pay someone to pre-screen comments to remove abuse.
It wd be a shame if you stopped commenting just cos of lame idiots.
Best
Dominic Cummings

2. Scott Says:

Wow, I already got a first volunteer for filtering comments! (But they asked me not to publish their name.) They pointed out that I might need multiple volunteers in multiple time zones if I go that route. Thanks so much!

3. Anonymous Says:

I’m so sorry, Scott.

I don’t mind if you personally know who I am. But not all of us are as courageous (or as tenured!) as you are, so putting things up on the internet with our name on it forever could be a hard sell, from a career perspective. I’m not even talking about politically controversial things – I’m including academically controversial things, too. Your comment section sometimes serves as a real forum for hashing out ill-formed ideas and getting valuable feedback.

So how about requiring that we sign up in some behind-the-scenes way, so that you, Scott, can see our real names, but we can still use a pseudonym for public purposes?

Thanks for considering!

4. David Karger Says:

Scott, I do hope you find a way to keep comments open while squashing the trolls, because good discussion happens on your blog. I’d be happy to join a pool of moderators and give a bit of time weekly.

With respect to this particular troll, I consider it very unlikely that they are in fact a “woke feminist”. Rather, they are a troll, whose sole goal in life is to trigger other people—which on your case means *acting* like a woke feminist to you because that is guaranteed to trigger a long self defensive response that proves you’re upset. They would count it major victory if they did drive you to suicide—don’t let them win.

5. Topologist Guy Says:

Scott, do you have any idea who the hell is doing this shit, or why? Why would somebody go to the effort of tormenting a quantum complexity blogger who’s never hurt anybody? It’s just so random and sick.

My best guess is probably the folks at SneerClub or some similar gaggle of woke social justice types who are going after you because you dare to talk about societal problems faced by “young shy nerdy guys.” I don’t think the comments themselves are genuine, they are so over-the-top, but the SneerClubber woke types just want to make you upset and force you to shut down the blog.

From the IP thing you sent, the troll is probably a CS student/faculty at Rutgers?

6. Tom Says:

Hi Scott, I think that one (or more) human screeners would be the most open, fair AND effective solution. Personally I like the possibility of commenting on your blog pseudoanonymously and without signing up to any account, but I understand that this privilege can be abused, and the 1% of psychopaths in the general population are responsible for 99% of the human suffering, or so the story goes. I’m afraid I cannot commit myself to volunteering for the job, mainly for family reasons, but your blog is very popular (yay!) and I’m sure you will find a lot of support from your (non-psycho) readers. If I can give a word of comfort, maybe it helps keeping in mind that there is a long, long distance between an idiot’s keyboard an the physical sanctity of your home and family. Cheers!

7. Sebastian Says:

How would you check whether the identity is real? And surely most people don’t have a website?

8. HasH Says:

GMT+03:00 here. I am volunteer for pre-screen! My comments are not important but i like to read others. I can even be part time (free) your body guard if i was live in your state (veteran and worked as s/o in USA over 6 yrs). Please don’t waste your time with trolls!
Peace brother!

9. maline Says:

I’m sorry for not coming to your defense! It sounds as if that would have been helpful. I didn’t because it seemed “above my standing” for a schnook like me to offer moral support to an Important Successful Person like you.

These trolls are simply evil people who enjoy watching you squirm. Not because they particularly.
hate you; it’s just because you squirm in a fun way for them! Kind of like having an unusually high concentration of minerals that are useful in making paperclips. I doubt most of them even believe in their supposed Social Justice agenda. It’s just a game for them.

10. Richard Charles Fleischer Says:

Hide confirmed real-names, but reserve the right to reveal them. I trust you to make that call. (We just won’t hear from people who don’t.) OR use a pool of censor volunteers: nothing gets through without approval and sensible software handles the scheduling.

11. myst_05 Says:

Move to Substack, create a $5/month subscription plan, then only let paid subscribers comment. If someone pays money to slander you, its pretty easy to ban them. 12. The Pachyderminator Says: Rare commenter but regular reader here. I would NOT like to see a move to Substack – I find it bloated, slow, and buggy, especially on mobile. Hiring someone to pre-screen comments should work, but might involve a rather drastic expenditure of money for a non-monetized blog. Requiring real names is a reasonable course of action, though I would have to consider whether I would leave any further comments under that condition – the anonymity of this identity (a silly name that I chose when I wrote my first blog comment back in 2009) is easily breakable for anyone who took the trouble, but I prefer it to putting my True Name right out there. EDIT: I like the solution proposed by Richard Charles Fleischer #10. 13. Raymundo Arroyave Says: Scott, I am definitely not in this field but I am an academic so at least we have something in common. I have read your blog for years now, mainly because I want to know what you (a world expert) think about theoretical computer science in general and quantum computing in particular. it is really a shame that you have to deal with these trolls. I cant imagine how stressful it must be to open yourself up and then receive all this attacks as a consequence. Frankly, I do not mind preventing anonymous posting but I see the point of people without the job security (we will see, by the way, what the legislature has in store for us tenured faculty in Texas). I think that having someone screen comments for you may be a solution, but I am not sure that such a move would be scalable/sustainable in the long run. After all, trolls would have all the incentive in the world to try to overwhelm the system. Maybe you can set up the system like the one proposed above, where we sign in witht our real IDs but post anonymously so you know who we are. 14. Anon, a moose Says: Scott, As someone who has only posted once or twice before on your blog, I have no real standing to opine on how, where, or whether you should continue to write, but I will say this: the comments in question are transparently infantile, meritless, and risible. Though they clearly provoke a visceral reaction in you personally, to any outside observer they appear merely ridiculous, and beneath contempt. For my part, I would have no compunctions whatsoever about consigning comments of this ilk straightwise to the round file, but I know that’s not an option for you. I do hope you decide to continue regardless, if only because the dissolution of this entire blog seems much too great a concession to make — especially to such an artless bully. Please don’t let one coward with a keyboard take your whole blog hostage. You have the power, here, not him/her. 15. Amir Says: I’d say #1 or #2. 16. Scott Says: Dominic Cummings #1: Thank you so much for the generous offer! Let me solicit counterproposals from the Remainers and then get back to you. 😀 17. Gimpy Says: Any of those are fine by me (though with #1 and #2, I won’t leave comments). What about this option: – continue publishing the trolls’ attacks on you (to expose how terrible they are) – but _not_ if they start insulting your family as well (IP ban) – don’t respond (or only a canned response) to trolls 18. Topologist Guy Says: To David and All: Unless you’ve been on the receiving end of a woke mob, you don’t know how brutal and vicious they can be. I can tell you, from experience, that many genuine social justice types, in their rhetoric and in their casual brutality, sound a lot like Scott’s trolls. The troll attacking Scott’s family is perhaps too over-the-top to be genuine, but the “Trans Lives Matter” commenter on the “God of the Gaps” post, who opined at length about how “weird and awkward kids” who “can’t fit in” are a menace and a danger to society, sounds a lot like a genuine left-wing asshole you could find on many subreddits. I’ve seen heavily upvoted comments in left-wing subreddits that sound almost exactly like TLM. As I explained there, TLM’s rhetoric is quite compatible with the social conformity and authoritarianism espoused by our fascist Democratic party. 19. I Says: A simple spam filter would surely work, no? Or maybe some sentiment analysis algorithm that’s trained to detect “people abusing Scott”. Doesn’t seem that hard, given that these people are hardly weaving subtle insults into a defensible weave. It would be sensible people who wish to volunteer would say their price. 30 cents/comment. 20. David Eppstein Says: Comments are overrated. Moderated comments are better than no comments, but no comments are better than unmoderated comments. If you don’t feel up to doing the moderation (or finding someone trusted to do it for you), by all means shut off the comments. Please do continue making your blog posts open and public rather than moving to a system where only subscribers can read, though. I, for one, don’t read social media that are walled off to subscribers only (or that are too annoying in limiting the content you can see without subscribing). 21. bagel Says: As a reader, I prefer options 2 or 3, would be fine with option 1, and would be sad about option 4. Your thoughts – including clarification and debates with commenters – are what I’m here for. And what I imagine most of us are here for. I’d be annoyed if the trolls drove us to a different platform; I’d be much sadder to lose part of the content itself. 22. Adam Bates Says: Scott, I implore you not to do any of these things (1-4). Your blog has thrived as a sanctuary of free speech and unmoderated, free-flow discussion. Giving volunteers the power to censor comments would ruin that. How exactly are they to distinguish between genuine criticism and harassment? Where is that line, exactly? The other options would also transform the nature of this blog, for the worse. Don’t let the trolls win. When you look back at your high-school bullies, do you really want to give them the satisfaction of saying, yes, they hurt you so much they made you ruin your CS blog twenty years in the future? My two cents: let us see all these comments. Maybe it can shine a light on the harassment and the abuse that is flung at people like you. And if you have sane people in the comments fighting back, maybe that could help you retain some sanity. 23. Don McKenzie Says: Pathetically sad situation. I fear that Option 1 could still be hacked easily (though being no expert in such things). Option 2 “forces” all of us who truly value your blog AND your patient responses to commenters to do a bit of extra work. Totally fine with me. Adam (#22): I hear you, but as I age I find it ever so much better to dodge the trolls than to try to straight-arm them. 24. Scott Says: Topologist Guy #18: As I explained there, TLM’s rhetoric is quite compatible with the social conformity and authoritarianism espoused by our fascist Democratic party. No, the vast majority of (fellow) Democrats who I personally know have not even a hint of these bullying tendencies, this glee in seeing nerdy guys suffer. The worst you could accuse them of is insufficient zeal in opposing it. We really are talking about an extreme faction that’s gained power from the Internet and that uses “social justice” as just a convenient cover for its sadism, resentment, and cruelty. If some other ideology had had the same cachet with young people, it would’ve been that other one instead. 25. feminist liberal arts type Says: Topologist Guy #18 Could I ask you to describe what kind of incidents you’ve had with social justice advocates abusing you? I speak as a social justice progressive myself. I am genuinely curious. I see that the hate speech heaped on Scott in this space is the real thing, and I would like to hear from others who have experienced similar abuse. My principle here is that if sexism, racism, and homophobia are bad, nerdphobia (I made that word up) is bad for exactly the same reasons. I want to learn and understand how prevalent it is, and to try to understand how it works. So, I want to listen to people’s stories. I would love to hear similar stories of abuse from anyone else nerd-identified here. If you feel comfortable sharing, of course. 26. Carl Lumma Says: Comments are under-rated. It’s almost hard to remember that from the beginning of the web until just a few years ago, all news stories, from the NY Times to local outlets, had comment sections. Shtetl Optimized is one of the last active blogs, available via RSS, with a healthy comment section. It would be a shame to lose it. Instead of reviewing comments before they’re posted, you could move to a whitelist/blacklist model. This is something like the first option you mention. Currently, a name and e-mail are required to post here. The name is displayed but the e-mail is not. That’s good. Additionally, you could require commenters to prove they own the e-mail by following a link. And you could require the name and e-mail be unique. Then commenters could post without review as long as the name supplied matches the one given with the e-mail when it was validated. Review would happen after comments appear. Here, deleting an abusive comment would also blacklist the name/e-mail pair, so a determined troll would at least have to burn addresses. I don’t know if WordPress has this functionality but it’s pretty basic so I imagine it does… 27. JimV Says: When I started commenting on the Internet, circa 2003, it was mostly in response to creationists on Evolution blogs, and I didn’t want my evangelical family to do a web search on my last name and find those comments. Since then I’ve kept the same pseudonym for consistency so that other frequent commenters could recognize me. Even on this website, e.g., the Abortion post, I could get into a little family trouble, but heck with it. I’m willing to give my full name, but I don’t have a website. So anything but requiring a website is okay with me. I would definitely pay a fee, up to say ten cents a word, for commenting. (Not because my comments would be worth it, but because your time is.) Thanks for this great blog. 28. David Karger Says: Topologist Guy #18. Yes, I know that there are actual for real sadistic woke feminists out there. But the thing to remember about the internet is that it aggregates and amplifies tiny fringe signals that would never have been detectable before the internet. The vast majority of progressives are kind, reasonable, empathetic people. They just aren’t as loud. It’s a mistake to confuse volume with population. Also, I believe that the trolls far outnumber the sadistic woke feminists, so when I see comments like those today my presumption is that they are usually coming from the former. 29. Anonymous 99 Says: Hello from long time reader, first time writter (and sorry for my bad english). It’s very sad to hear this. Your blog is one from my favorite ones, and it is shame of this times that is second one which probably will have to change comment policy just thanks to some “internet heroes hidden behind keyboard”. Did you consider moving comments (at least from anonymous commenters) to Patreon, like Backreaction already did, for some symbolic fee, just to distract these … noncivilised individuals? If you do, i’m sure i will subscribe (even if i probably will not comment anyway), and as a side effect, you will have funded at least some additional coffees ;-). Or #3 – i too have no problem if you (or better some trusted persons you selected) will see my identity, but i would not be happy to disclose any of my interest to every internet bot or data collector (even CS is not anything suspicious 😉 just to limit digital footage) so visible pseudonymous identity is pretty fine, and probably would work as strong antitroll measure too. Please don’t let them disgust you, they are many orders of magnitude under your level, and they don’t deserve not even one second of your time. Your work and your blog are awesome. 30. David Karger Says: Scott #24 I disagree with you that this extreme faction has gained *power* from the Internet. They have gained *volume*, thanks to this free speech thing that you seem to favor so strongly. But I don’t think they have significant power at all. I do think that the more common progressives—the kind, reasonable, empathic ones—are taking positions that you consider too far left, but that is being driven by concern for the disadvantaged, *not* by the anger of the crazy fringe. 31. Grad Student Says: Move to Substack and only let paid readers comment, possibly with gifted subscriptions to people who are willing to reveal their identities to you. (Does Substack allow writers to gift subscriptions? I would expect so, but I am not too familiar with the platform) 32. Rob Cooper Says: Whatever works for you Scott. This is my favorite blog and I would hate to see it go away. rob 33. Craig Kaplan Says: Regular reader, infrequent commenter. I’m fully in the “recruit a paid or volunteer team of moderators” camp, at least as an experiment. The legitimate comments on this site are valuable, and I would prefer for you not to move to Substack (you know, if it were up to me…). I think you’d find more than enough people to do the work, which would presumably get easier as the trolls give up trying to abuse the site. The obvious risk would be false positives or false negatives. But honestly I don’t see that as being too much of a problem in practice. I mean, the comment that precipitated this post wasn’t exactly subtle, and in any case it failed the most basic moderation test: it was off-topic. Besides, I feel that you of all people would be able to articulate a clear set of moderation guidelines that your team could follow with a minimum of uncertainty. In the meantime, you do not owe trolls any oxygen whatsoever, and there’s little value in publishing their words, even to refute them. Delete without a second thought. 34. An Idea Says: Hi Scott, Many people are afraid to attach their real identity to any controversial comments about they make online. #1 will not work if you want to have perspectives that are do not conform to the woke expectations. Pre-screening might help, but I am skeptical of the volunteers consistently giving this time unless they are actually paid for this as their job, which, to me seems an overkill. I wonder if you can achieve this kind of filtering by using some kind of a script? My other suggestion is that you allow publicly anonymous comments only for certain “pre-approved” users with verified email addresses. For “pre-approving” users, you could for instance employ the approach used by a lot FB groups of asking the user to reply to certain time-consuming questions (ex. “How did you hear about this blog?”, “Why do you want to be able to contribute to the discussions?” etc) as a part of their approval request. Though it can let a determined enough bully through, most of the spammy trolls will be driven away. 35. Ted Says: I’d (somewhat reluctantly) vote for #2, a move to Substack. It just offers a technical capability that WordPress doesn’t, and I don’t see any reason to feel bad about moving a blog to take advantage of a useful technical capability. And I think that adding a small bit of friction to online communication in general can improve the discourse, by encouraging people take a second to ask themselves “Is this comment really important enough to take up an instant of many, many people’s time?” It helps to save everyone – especially you – time by automatically screening out some of the trivial comments as well as the hateful ones. (That is not in any way a knock on Shtetl-Optimized commenters in particular, who are almost all very thoughtful. It’s just an observation about online discourse in general.) 36. Romans Pancs Says: My ranking of the alternatives is in the order you’ve listed them. 37. syskill Says: Go with option 2. I have never subscribed to a substack before, but if you had a substack then I would subscribe. 38. kashyap vasavada Says: I am in favor of people using their real name. Why do you want to hide under pseudo name? Are you afraid that someone in authority position would take it out on you?!! 39. matt Says: The few troll posts you have allowed to appear on this blog seem incredibly different from the usual posts. Surely it would be possible to train a classifier to flag posts? I know, I know, this kind of thing has been proposed before in other contexts, and I’m sure I’ll hear a long list of reasons why it can’t work. But these posts are so clearly different. 40. Shmi Says: Scott, so sorry to hear that you and your family got attacked by these abusive commenters and it’s very impressive that you seem to be able to come out on top. Hope there are no long-term effects on you, either emotionally, once the adrenaline wears off, or professionally if the ultra-woke mob trains its sights on you. While my (very occasional) comments never get traction on this blog, I definitely enjoy scanning the comment section for your replies to others, and it is more fun to read your exchange with honest and interested readers than with the likes of that “Typical Scott” troll. Substack seems to work rather well for the other Scott A and for many others with a sizable following. As long as moving there would reduce the incidence of trolling, it makes sense. Enforcing real names seems less useful and more complicated. After all, there are quite a few quality commenters who started with nicknames and often continue to stay anonymous or semi-so. Relying on someone else to do manual filtering sounds unworkable in the long run. Not having your replies to the comment section would basically kill the value of the comment section for me, and probably for many others. Maybe you could do what Scott Alexander does and have an occasional “best of” post. Or what Sean Carroll does for Patreon supporters, collecting questions and answering them once a week. Again, cheering for your success, both here, and hopefully in your Alignment-inspired work. 41. Gadi Says: A psychologist once explained to me that the way raping and sexual harassment goes, if a woman has been exploited once, it’s much more likely to happen again. The predators know how to smell an easier prey. It’s also true for bullying. Predatorial and bullying psychopaths know how to recognize an easy target. Maybe you’re no longer suicidal from such comments but you’re pretty much an easy target for them. Not only do you fully admit to be processing even the moderated comments, and admit they do you harm. That’s already giving them the sadistic pleasure. When looking at your responses you’re even more clearly an easy target. You’re all defending yourself from some comments that anyone who reads your blog knows are not true. You’re again and again showing the bullies that your same old vulnerabilities are still there and you still feel uncomfortable enough to leave the 1000th comment about them unanswered. You act as if the troll is someone who doesn’t know you when the troll knows you well enough to push just the right buttons to get you to forgo your comment policy and respond. I was also a bullied nerd. I’m in my late 20s and I already learned years ago how to deal with bullies, and that’s by having a high self esteem and by closing and resolving my emotional vulnerabilities by myself instead of in front of an adversary. You’re 40 and yet you still allow random trolls to exploit your emotional vulnerabilities which you’ve publicly broadcasted. I don’t actually think moderating most of the low effort trolls takes any emotional toll. It’s the trolls that know you the most that manage to get to you. If you had truly resolved your self esteem and you truly understood your place in the world and your inability to change it, whatever he said wouldn’t hurt you. If he wouldn’t hurt you and you wouldn’t respond like a wounded nerd, these trolls wouldn’t keep coming. I’m also pretty sure that the comments that truly hurt you were those you felt compelled to display, and that the comments about Dana you only felt the need to mention in order to mask what really hurt you. You probably still think I’m a troll and this will probably be left in moderation like the rest of my comments, including those which literally only stated facts. It’s kind of sad that I’m wasting my time trying to get you to understand how psychopaths work and all I’m getting is being called a conspiracy theorist and a troll. It’s like deep down you don’t want to understand how psychopaths work because you’re afraid it will turn you into a psychopath yourself. 42. D Says: Consider this a vote for #3, perhaps replaced eventually by an ML solution trained on the behavior of the human moderators. Anonymity has real value, especially in a forum that’s focused on serious discussion. There are not many other well-moderated anonymous spaces online, and it would be a shame to lose this one. As we all know, many in academia are unwilling to speak openly on social issues without guaranteed anonymity. Even honest opinions on certain areas of quantum computing hype (e.g. D-Wave) can carry career consequences. I expect that even if real names were supposed to be for Scott’s eyes only, the risk of a future hack would stifle some contributors. And there’s always some nonzero risk that I say something too critical of one of Scott’s theorems and he later ends up on my tenure committee (and turns out to be the type to hold a grudge). I am much more interested in reading comments that are not constrained by academic politics. As for the other solutions: If burner Substack accounts are easy to create, then I don’t see how that will prevent spam. And of course Scott’s comments are usually the most valuable of all, so it would be a shame to lose them. 43. Warren Yoder Says: I will help moderate with a moderate time commitment. It would be a small price to pay for all I’ve learned from you—and hope to keep learning. 44. Scott Says: Gadi #41: Thanks for the well-intended words. It’s true that I haven’t “resolved my place in the world,” as you put it. It’s true that psychopaths sense that and are viciously exploiting it. All the same, I’m not quite as naive as you suggest. My real game here is to force all my progressive friends and colleagues to choose between me and the psychopaths. That might sound like a trivially easy decision—and for many of them, it will be. For others, though, coming out against the psychopaths will require repudiating a central principle of their ideology: namely, that to be accused of being a “creepy incel misogynist” is to be found guilty of it, in practice if not in theory. If they can bring themselves to admit the falsity of that principle in the easiest, most clear-cut imaginable case, hopefully it will give them practice for the harder cases. 45. PeterM Says: Based on your recent enthusiasm about AI and related posts, I would have guessed that AI reached a level of being able to reasonably detect abusive trolls especially if they are sort of following the same pattern. Is there a reason to think that it could not work? I feel that the main issue with this is that it is not actionable in a few days even if it could work in principle. But again, exactly from your posts, I got the impression that AI is already doing not less amazing things and that you interact with some of the best people from the field. 46. Chip Says: Scott, Top level comment is that Dan Savage’s advice that “You don’t have to show up to get punched in the face” applies. “Close comments except to commenters who provide a real identity—e.g., a full real name, a matching email address, a website.” — since it’s not exactly rocket science to invent a name and sign up for a matching freemail account, not sure what that would accomplish *even if you required registration with the platform*. “Make the comment sections for readers only, eliminating any expectation that I’ll participate.” — that would probably be a very effective way of turning the comments section into a useless, pointless open sewer of garbage. You might as well just disable comments altogether, as it’s entirely predictable that the signal-to-noise ratio would drop to the point where it wouldn’t be worth the time to read it. “…both my work and my enjoyment of the James Webb images were interrupted by an anonymous troll, who used the Shtetl-Optimized comment section to heap libelous abuse on me…opin[ing] at length about how I’m a disgusting creep who surely, probably, maybe has lewd thoughts about his female students.” As a gay man who lives in a country where a well-funded combined political/media machine has decided to aggressively characterize anyone who disagrees with their efforts to erase the existence of gay people from discussion in schools as a pedophiliac “groomer”, I can certainly empathize with your pain and outrage at someone suggesting that you are “a disgusting creep who surely, probably, maybe has lewd thoughts about his female students”. (Actually, having read at least the initial comments in question, the actual suggestion appears to have been that your treatment of female students might be/was biased by lingering resentment at how women that age treated you when you were that age, but your mileage clearly varied.) I trust you, in turn, will understand if I don’t share your perception of which side of the political aisle poses the greater threat. “Most of all, I wanted my woke, feminist, social-justice readers to either explicitly endorse or (hopefully) explicitly repudiate the unambiguous harassment that was now being gleefully committed in their name.” J**** F****** C***** on a cracker, Scott. Speaking as someone I suspect you would characterize as one of your “woke, feminist, social-justice readers”, I hate to break it to you, but it is neither my job nor my obligation to monitor the comments section of your blog in order to detect and then take the time to explicitly register written disagreement with things said by any other supposed “woke, feminist, social-justice readers.” I wasn’t even aware of the existence of said comments until you brought it to my attention by devoting a post to talking about them. Also, by the way, again speaking as someone I suspect you would characterize as one of your “woke, feminist, social-justice readers”, you might want to consider that many of us suffered as much if not more than you did with regard to awkward adolescence/bullying/etc., so our sympathy for your appeals to your experience in that regard is limited… 47. Tu Says: Scott, I do not have a website, but am happy to share my real name. Please do not move to substack. I would happy to contribute to pay someone to filter the comments for you. Please email if interested. 48. Greg Price Says: You get some appalling abuse here. And yikes, that last thread is a new level. Even before yesterday, it’d felt like the worst comments were getting worse and more frequent. It makes a lot of sense to change something to keep them away. If you can find enough volunteer moderators to sustainably handle the task — and it’s sounding like you probably can — then that seems like the ideal solution. (That or possibly a paid moderator.) In particular, that is the solution that seems like it could realistically accomplish an outcome like “all the great things about Shtetl-Optimized, but without the trolls”: * Requiring real identities would close off a lot of interesting comments, both technical as Anonymous #3 said and in the sensitive non-technical subjects that I think you’ve often been glad to have made your blog a place to discuss. * Moving to Substack would make a high barrier for someone who isn’t a regular reader to come by and leave a comment. For example, “Amy” back in 2014, whose first comment makes it clear she didn’t consider herself a regular reader. I have the impression that on technical subjects, too, a significant fraction of the interesting comments are from people who don’t regularly read the blog but came across the particular post (e.g. because it’s about work they were involved in); but it’s harder to tell, because people don’t usually happen to mention it in their comments. Of course the bottom line is that you should do what you think is most likely to leave you feeling good about how it turned out. You’ve often expressed pride in the openness of the discussion here, but if on reflection you decide you’d rather try a different style — well, nobody needs to justify such a choice, but if there were any need to “earn” such a thing then you’ve certainly done so if anyone has! 49. Ashley Lopez Says: Scott, Please do not go for option #4. I once asked you here in the comments section how (the thought process) you solved a math problem, and you then patiently explained it. If it were the teenage version of me then that exchange could have affected what I picked to study in college! 50. John Gordon Says: No opinion on comments, this is first I’ve ever ventured into your comments section. Just to say I’m a longtime faithful reader and whatever you do with comments is fine with me. I do wish you wouldn’t engage with trolls but I’ve given up hoping for that. I worry there’s no way to have a comments section without the ability to block people 51. Anonymous Says: Scott #44: I am deeply sympathetic towards you in your current situation but I disagree with something that you are doing here, namely trying to force your friends and colleagues to explicitly repudiate other people. I would like to convince you that this is a bad practice, both tactically and morally. However, I understand that you are (quite justifiably) upset right now so I don’t necessarily expect you to read my comment or be convinced by it. In general, I am deeply suspicious of demands that I (or anyone else) denounce some person or group of people. Even when the person or group of people in question is terrible, I dislike this practice. To me it feels like a demand that I subject my moral and personal beliefs to someone else’s approval and also a demand that I announce my loyalty to them. I personally think that loyalty to friends is an important virtue but I dislike demands for loyalty. I think asking your friends and colleagues to denounce your enemies is bad for a few other reasons as well. First, it can lead to a slippery slope. There is no bright line between “people that everyone should be willing to denounce” and “people that some have personal reasons for not wanting to denounce.” Presumably you would be willing to denounce Harvey Weinstein. What about Louis CK? Richard Stallman? Richard Dawkins? If that list is not convincing to you, it seems to me to be easy to come up with a longer list which is a relatively smooth gradient from “very likely a serial rapist” to “mild allegations of rude behavior that are hard to verify.” Second, it feels to me like drawing non-combatants into a fight. Does every one of your friends and colleagues read your blog religiously? If not, why should they be responsible for denouncing every terrible commenter who shows up on your blog? Perhaps you will say that you are asking them to denounce all instances of “psychopathic” leftism (not limited to the specific comments that made you upset), but I think it is easy to see why some of your friends might be unwilling to issue such a vague and general condemnation. Also, there are tons of groups of psychopaths in the world. It’s unreasonable to expect people to spend time condemning every such group. I do think it is reasonable to expect your friends to show you sympathy and support if you talk to them about the comments that were left on your blog, but in my view that’s quite different from asking them to issue a blanket condemnation of psychopathic leftism. Third, I think it moves us even further from my ideal of a society where people with radically different beliefs can peacefully coexist and work together. I have friends and colleagues who support a (in my view) genocidal chinese government and I get along with them fine. I have friends who think the soviet union was generally a pretty benevolent government or that the US government should be overthrown. I think each of these people has rationalizations for their beliefs and does not think they are supporting evil but it still means I have some pretty fundamental disagreements with people I am close to (and that’s not even getting into stuff about religion, the nature of consciousness, etc). I also think this kind of totalizing, you’re-either-with-me-or-against-me attitude is part of the problem with the modern progressive movement. In my opinion there are way too many loyalty tests and demands to denounce others in that movement and it causes progressives to throw away the friendship, insights and viewpoint of many interesting and worthwhile people. I too detest the kind of comments that “Typical Scott” left on your blog (though as many have pointed out, it seems at least as likely that they were left by an apolitical or even right-wing troll as by a left-wing one) but I also long for a world where people are free to express themselves and hold weird or even dangerous opinions while still living and working together peacefully. I don’t think loyalty tests are part of such a world. By the way, I think the rest of your response to this event is very wise. Your comment section was clearly causing you a lot of emotional turmoil and while ignoring the comments might work for others, it didn’t seem to be easy for you. Thus limiting the comments section in some way seems reasonable and smarter than hoping that your own personality will suddenly change. I greatly enjoy reading this blog (especially the technical topics) and so I hope you can find a way to continue to run it without causing yourself too much unhappiness. 52. murmur Says: Scott, why do you get so triggered by such comments when it’s clear that they’re trolling? You shouldn’t have allowed that comment to appear at all. There’s no point to have a rational argument with these people, it’s not what they’re looking for. I doubt the commenter even believed what he wrote, his sole purpose was to get a rise out of you. You should learn to ignore such people. 53. Trevor Says: Followed the blog for a while, but this is the first time I’ve commented. While I’m fairly liberal by the standards of where I live, I suspect I’m one of the most conservative people here. Your Zeroth Commandment is probably my favorite post and the one I do my best to live up to. As a low-income, nerdy individual with autism I didn’t get help for as a child (I was born in 1989, several years too early for all the autism awareness) it can certainly be difficult. Ordinary conversation can be difficult enough, let alone the subtle social signals necessary for dating that even neurotypicals struggle with. I’ve had little luck there, but it’s nice to hear someone saying: “You’re not a monster for the occasional feeling of frustration” that exists in so many other media sources, so it’s something I appreciate, whatever your ultimate decision is. 54. clayton Says: I’d be willing to deanonymize for the sake of continuing my irregular commenting here if it reduced the amount of crap you have to deal with, Scott, so my vote is for #1, or #3 if it really improves your mental health. I don’t like either #2 or #4. Echoing many other people here, I’ll also add that the trolls seem pathetically transparent in this instance. They’re really just trying to rile you up. It’s very possible that you have (or the internet at large has) passed through some phase transition recently where the trolls have become more venomous, but regardless, trolls gonna troll, and commenters gonna comment. 55. Matt Says: Sorry you’ve been copping this Scott. Look after yourself, and remember that most of your readers (and probably ~everyone who really matters to you IRL) see the dumb nasty comments for what they are. I also strongly suspect that, like most pieces of political and political-adjacent trolling, they come from a range of sources: some who do hold the views they profess; some who will say whatever it takes to cause pain or provoke a reaction; some who are impersonating a member of the hated enemy tribe to make them look bad; and perhaps some who don’t identify with the tribe they’re impersonating OR its direct rival, but want to make both sides hate each other more. (Though I do have to admit: one of the comments that I read as insincere trolling was attached to an apparently-real name and web address, so if that one still hasn’t been disavowed then I should trust my instincts a bit less.) 56. A-non-tenured-guy Says: kashyap vasavada #38 as a non-tenured prof, I usually don’t say online anything that even slightly doesn’t agree with the woke culture. Even tenured folks prefer not say things on these topics. I’m sure you understand why. 57. Tristram Bogart Says: Whichever option will keep this wonderful blog going. The thought of having to deal with such trolls is one reason I’ve never dared to blog. I do think they’re just trolls though, not worthy of being connected to any ideology or political tendency. 58. Shy Nerdy Dude Says: Scott, The problem is that, in truth, you haven’t opened up *enough.* You opened up once or twice on this blog, but you hardly ever talk about the issues of loneliness and frustration afflicting shy nerdy guys. That’s why trolls sense weakness in you—they tell you’re still too scared to even talk about it. What you need to do is open up completely. Be confident and assert yourself. You should write a book about your life as a shy nerd and your sexual and romantic frustrations and how you managed to dig yourself out of that hole. The time is ripe: everybody is talking about the “incel” thing, it’s even talked about on TV and newspapers now. You could call your book “Incel: The Untold Story of an MIT Scientist” or something like that. Get the book to the top of the NYT best seller list. Get invited on talk shows to promote your book. Go on Joe Rogan and Ben Shapiro. Hell, you could even get an invite on Good Morning America. You know what: aim for Jimmy Fallon. You could get an interview with him about your book, imagine how many people would see that? Millions and millions of people. Do a book tour. Travel the country. Sign the books. You’ll get so many fans. You’ll be famous man. Maybe they’ll even make it into a movie. Or like a netflix special or something. Wouldn’t that be awesome? When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Use this controversy to get some fame and recognition man. 59. Isaac Grosof Says: Hi Scott, I’d be interested in being a screener/pre-screener for the comments, especially as part of a group of people doing so. I’m (fortunately) not too affected by people being awful, especially when the awfulness isn’t directed at me. 60. Scott Says: Shy Nerdy Dude #58: Thanks for the advice! 🙂 But I’ve talked about these issues mostly just out of a sense of moral obligation when I’ve seen nerdy guys viciously and unjustly attacked — not because I’ve felt like this was the most important, or even the second or third most important, contribution that I could make to the world. I’ll keep circling back, though, and see if I can someday figure out the words to explain this that would garner progressive sympathy rather than contempt. That might, I fear, be a much harder problem than P vs. NP. 61. Shy Nerdy Guy Says: Scott, All due respect, progressives will never come around on this issue. Your role is to be a warrior in the culture war. You’ve always seemed like a warrior to me. Brave and willing to stand up for what you believe. Fuck “garnering progressive sympathy.” You need to be a culture war warrior who can fight for us on the Right. I’m sure you could get a position on, say, the Daily Wire. You are uniquely positioned to bring attention to this horrible problem to the Right, who will actually listen. Please, please, please talk to Jordan Peterson or his daughter Mikhaila. They’d definitely fit you in for an interview. Or Ben Shapiro. Or hell, even Fox News. I’m sure if you went on thr Daily Wire first, well, you might even get an interview on Tucker. He’s got millions of fans who might be quite receptive to your message. I truly believe if you tried and accepted your role as a culture warrior, did the podcast and Fox News circuit, wrote a book and did a book tour, you could really inject the incel thing into the political conversation and get right wing politicians talking about it. You can be a fucking right wing media star! I know you’re a bit liberal personally, but this is all about picking sides to be strategic. 62. Ragtag Jack Says: On various communities I’ve participated in we employed a method of any comment with 2+ reports gets sent to a moderator for review. A mild amount of community interaction can significantly reduce the workload. Every comment posted on here will be read by your readers, but no one person can read – and therefore screen – every comment without it becoming tedious. Anything you can do to decentralize the moderation process (upvotes/downvotes, reporting, or granting “screening” privileges to anyone who regularly comments) will ease the process. People do it for free if it’s easy enough. 63. ntl Says: Did you reach out to 24Shells? You can find their policy on abuse and some contact information here: https://www.24shells.net/aup.html That particular IP is probably used for a VPN server (the whatismyipaddress link you provided in the other comment section identified it as such), so the troll could be located anywhere in the physical world with an internet connection. 64. OhMyGoodness Says: It crosses any possible line of acceptable decency for a cowardly idiot to involve your family. I don’t know what you will decide for your blog but am sure it will foster positive human interactions. Articulate individuals that are just angry at life in general are an important consideration in the evil that historically has consumed societies. The internet is an ideal medium for this evil to spread. Many of your readers sometimes disagree with your views but they always respect you as a decent and very unique individual and will defend you and your family as the best we have to offer as a society (ex the occasional overly ideological view 🙂 ). 65. murmur Says: I vote for option #3. No way I’d provide my real identity to comment, even only to Scott. That’s far too risky if I want to talk about remotely controversial things. Moving to substack and allowing only paid subscribers to comment will have the same issue as they can be doxxed as well. I don’t like option #4 either as I value Scott’s replies to the comments. 66. murmur Says: @Scott Btw please let us know if any actions were taken against the hate commenters in the last post. 67. Boaz Barak Says: Hi Scott Just catching up to this now – so sorry you’ve had to deal with such trolls. I’ve been reading your blog since it started, but only skimming comments. I think that a real name policy, whether here or on substack, would preserve 90%+ of the useful comments and cut the vast majority of the noise. Boaz 68. Artur Ekert Says: It is not always that I agree with Dominic Cummings, but in this case, yes, it would be a shame if you stopped commenting just because of lame idiots. 69. Jeff Bazra Says: People like you are immune to any sane criticism, but god forbid someone thinks you’re not *enough* of a rabid deranged leftist. A dozen anti-semitic comments and you don’t bat an eye, but one sjw commenter and you’re having a full-on breakdown. Go fuck yourself. 70. Peter S. Shenkin Says: In think substack would be a good alternative. 71. Hwold Says: As a regular reader who very rarely comments, I would be sad to lose the ability to ask questions just because of some trolls. Requiring a valid email seems perfectly reasonable. 72. Alessandro Strumia Says: Just answer “Don’t bug me, man” and ignore. Don’t feed the activists. 73. Roger Schlafly Says: Scott, if you expose a vulnerability, people will attack it. Because they can. Just as a server with a security flaw gets hammered by bots. It might be as simple as that. You do not have to justify yourself to these creeps by assuring them that you wear clean t-shirts or donate to progressive causes. Or explain how you have suffered your share of abuse. You are not accountable to them. Thanks for posting this. Men prefer pretty women over ugly women, but do not abuse the ugly ones. Women prefer the Chads to the nerdy incels, but I did not realize how much the nerdy incels are despised. The [REDACTED] grad student says working in STEM is a living hell because some nerds don’t know how to socialize and ask a girl out! No, she is the one who does not know how to socialize. It cannot be all the fault of the guys. I hope you realize that when the woke take over, you are headed for the gulag. I will see you there. 74. David Karger Says: Going back to the original question, I know that wordpress offers many different moderation mechanisms. For example, mandating approval only for commenters who are not logged in or who have never posted before. This might not be exactly what you want but it’s probably pretty close, and it might be possible to get closer, especially with the right extensions https://wordpress.org/plugins/tags/moderation/ . In particular there are some that let you create a separate “comment moderator” role for your volunteers—that gives them no other special privileges on the web site. 75. David Karger Says: Clayton #54 I do not believe requiring real names is the right solution; there are many valuable posts that are made anonymously, and there are too many people who are perfectly happy to post toxic content under their own name. The right approach is to moderate content, not identity. 76. Mike Says: Uk based and happy to help filter out the garbage. Email if you are interest. 77. David Says: It’s as if the crystal pavements of eternal complexity truths were besmirched with dog dirt, and done deliberately at that. No one could be proud of such behaviour so make them identify themselves and it will stop. 78. Marcus Says: As another commenter noted, the trolls are simply bullies, and are poking you mainly because you squirm in a way that pleases them (at this juncture of their lives) — not because they particularly hate you. It would be obvious if you saw it happening to a third party and you weren’t emotionally involved— there is no other psychological motivation to seek you out on a random July 2022 day. All that said, as soon as you stop being triggered, they will stop. You should get folks to pre-screen comments, based on previous comments this seems highly doable. But I predict that as soon as you do (and as soon as trolls internalize this), they will go away, and there will be very little harassment to screen. 79. feminist liberal arts type Says: Scott #0- I think you have a right to form a safe space. No one should have to put up with constant harassment. And I hope when you see others forming safe spaces, you will have empathy for their situation, and understand they are doing it for the same reasons. Because they can’t function under constant harassment either, and because unending retraumatisation is not conducive to cultivating the best versions of ourselves. Some people have accused you of hypocrisy because they perceive you as abandoning your public commitment to free inquiry. Well, maybe the lesson to learn here is that the social justice left is correct on the speech debate? The social justice left says that critical inquiry actually functions better when bigotry cards are taken out of the social deck, so that people have enough psychological safety to reason together. For instance, we used to have fairly functional public norms which ostracised open racists and kept people like the alt-right out of mainstream conversation. I think those norms were good and should be restored. And I think they should apply against nerdphobia as much as racism and sexism. 80. Gadi Says: The real question is why do you seek external validation for these things. I’m sure there are countless comments left in moderation which simply bash you for being Jew, but you never felt the need to show them. That’s because you know and accept that there’s some people that will forever hate you for being Jew. The real damaging narrative of progressives is that what matters is external validation. The truth is, you can be stronger emotionally and live happy lives even when you know some people hate you or perceive you to be different, or envy you. It’s entirely up to you, to work on your emotional issues with yourself and your loved ones (and psychologist / Rabbi / confession priest if needed) and that’s all you ever need, even if the rest of the world thinks you’re the devil, or maybe just an incel nerd. Training people to seek external validation is how you trigger their herd instincts. A person who is completely dependent on the herd for his identity will follow the herd no matter what. The way progressivism treats the word identity, it’s almost a semantic redefinition. They convince you that identity is about how others treat you and perceive you, instead of how you perceive yourself. This is clear all throughout the progressive narrative. From gender identity, where they train people to think that the important part of your identity is how others treat you with pronouns, or “affirm” your gender, or how the only way to treat trans is to convince them to destroy their bodies instead of just accepting who they are. To race “politics” where your identity is skin color, or your sex. The end result is people who truly have no identity, and just act as a herd. Yes, you can sit and wait for other “woke readers” to come to your defense. But you didn’t refute anything, you confirmed their central thesis: that by triggering you in various ways, you lose your identity and seek their validation. Which means that the collective is responsible for your identity, instead of it being in your control. Want to truly refute them? Thank them for finding your vulnerabilities and resolve them internally. Nothing will shatter their point of view more than a person becoming stronger by himself and in spite of the non-acceptance of the herd. 81. Matt Says: Roger #73 > Men prefer pretty women over ugly women, but do not abuse the ugly ones. Women prefer the Chads to the nerdy incels, but I did not realize how much the nerdy incels are despised. Don’t fall into this trap. There certainly are men who think, say and do horrible things to/about unattractive women. Just as the rest of us shouldn’t be judged for the behaviour of those arseholes, you shouldn’t overgeneralise about how women think and act based on the nasty, hypocritical words or behaviours of some individuals. (Even if there are a lot of them! For any sufficiently large group, you can find enough examples to make basically any negative stereotype feel true. And right now the internet is great at shoving those examples in our faces. I would bet big money that some of the most unreasonable, genuinely man-hating ‘feminists’ became that way in part because of overexposure to and unbalanced focus on the genuinely appalling words and actions of some men.) 82. Abigail Says: As someone who has learned back in the 1980s the internet is much better place if you never use your full real name, I’m really curious how you intend to implement option 1 (Only allow commenters using their real name). If I claim my name is “Scott Aaronson”, how do you intend to validate or falsify that? As for email addresses, domains are cheap, and email addresses are easily generated. Any troll worth its salt will be using throw away addresses. 83. David Karger Says: Anonymous #51 that’s a really great framing of this situation. People talk about “the Overton Window” as if there were only one, but in fact every individual has their own and they won’t line up. Since this blog is Scott’s space, Scott gets to impose his window on the discussion. But it’s futile to try to get everyone else to agree about the right window. 84. Art Says: I wish to suggest a version of 3: make gpt 3 do it. I think it’s good enough to filter out based on “is this an honest comment meeting X policy.” We’ve got an open equivalent model now, so this will be something that can be offered on the cheap very soon. There’s only some prompt engineering and getting it to play nice with wordpress to do (and you’ll be at open-AI, surely someone would be interested in this application). I dislike disabling the comments, but prefer it to a move to substack (loading times and a weird right bias). I do not trust 4 to effectively stop the abuse nor its effects, but try it if you like. (Apologies if this has been covered in the comments already, I’ve only skimmed the discussion) 85. Anonymous Ocelot Says: You are great! Fuck the trolls. Also, fuck the comments here offering unsolicited psychoanalytical advice. If he wanted that, he would ask for it, people. Sending you support. I will adapt to your comment changes. In the end: your blog, your rules. 86. Ilio Says: Sorry you’re bullied again, but I’m glad you’re finally putting an end to you wasting your time and mental health on this kind of comments (did you ever noticed you’re much more involved and likely to respond to trolling than the average comment?). The options you listed are already in my own (descending) order of preference (but I doubt the last one is a solution). 87. James Cross Says: Since every comment is already moderated, I don’t see why you don’t simply delete them or mark them spam. Leaving the offensive posts up might have been done with the good intention of using them as examples but obviously it isn’t working and is just encouraging more of the same. I think the problem of needing moderator assistants might largely disappear once the offenders stop seeing their posts appear. On the other hand, requiring login or signup for posting also should work but I noticed from your comment in the other thread that isn’t. Fixing that could be a solution but might require a plugin for it to work like you expect. I would follow you to substack but moving from one platform to another could be a big hassle if want to retain all of our current postings. 88. Scott Says: Shy Nerdy Guy #61: Regarding your suggestion to go on to the Fox News / Daily Wire / right-wing podcast circuit to talk about the plight of shy nerdy males … OK, how about I do it if they all unambiguously declare that Trump lost the 2020 election, Biden won, and attempts to reverse the result like what happened on Jan. 6 should be aggressively prosecuted as insurrection or even treason against the United States? Would you like to be the intermediary in these negotiations? 89. Scott Says: ntl #63: Yes, I reached out to 24Shells. Haven’t heard back from them yet. 90. Fan of the blog Says: Scott – Long time reader but I rarely comment. I’d not prefer not mandating real names / official websites for comments, no participation from you, or limiting the audience by moving to substack. I’d be willing to help financially to support a third party screening service that executes your vision of what comments can be published here. I have no idea how much such a service would cost – any informed guesses? Can I contribute anonymously? As a mid career academic, it is ill advised for me to comment on anything with my true name and the main reason I read this blog is to hear your take on issues – QC or otherwise. It would be a tragedy if you or any of the anonymous but respectful commenters were permanently silenced by the militant mob. I have seen that almost every other online forum that I’m in (technical or otherwise) have now been hijacked by the vocal fringe. I hope the rest of us (i.e the silent moderate majority) can find a reasonable way out to atleast preserve this blog without cowering to the likes of Typical Scott and BA. Regardless, I am sorry that you have to put up with so much troll hate and I will wholeheartedly support any decision that you land on. 91. Scott Says: Jeff Bazra #69: A dozen anti-semitic comments and you don’t bat an eye, but one sjw commenter and you’re having a full-on breakdown. Do you really not understand why? With the antisemitic stuff, I have not the slightest doubt that everyone who matters in my community shares my outrage. With the anti-nerd stuff, by contrast, I’ve already gotten messages begging me to go easy, quietly bury it, and try to see things from the vicious trolls’ perspective. So I have no choice but to do to my social-justice friends what the Democrats will try to do to the Republicans in Congress, in the wake of the downfall of Roe v Wade: force them to own or disown the full implications of what’s being done in their name, to go on the record yea or nay. Stop letting them dodge the question. 92. Scott Says: feminist liberal arts type #79: I think you have a right to form a safe space. No one should have to put up with constant harassment. And I hope when you see others forming safe spaces, you will have empathy for their situation… I’ve never, ever questioned the right of anybody to choose moderation policies for their own private blogs and discussion spaces! Did I say anything to make you imagine that I would? 93. Miguel Says: I am devastated to read this…. Shtetl Optimised is one of my favourite blogs ever. Many of the discussions on the technical oriented posts are memorable, insightful and some I have even bookmarked. I think that post #10 had a good suggestion for option 1, but you will probably need some of 3 too to verify identities etc. I don’t love substack but it has at least RSS and probably it is the more sustainable in the mid to long term. Keeping a blog must feel fun… not like a job (and a rubbish one at that). 94. Scott Says: Gadi #80: The problem is that every physics crackpot, vaccination crackpot, creationist, etc says exactly the same thing, that it doesn’t matter that the scientific community is against them. From my perspective, though, it’s completely obvious that they’re all wrong and that they should be seeking more, not less, “external validation.” At the very least, until they’ve won over mainstream scientists, 100% of their efforts should be on that and that alone, rather than on exercising raw power even in the teeth of scientific opposition. Likewise with the bullied nerd thing: at least in my optimistic moments, I have a much higher aspiration than carving out my own, “internally validated” epistemic bubble. Rather, I aspire to convince all decent people that I was right about this all along. The examples of previous civil rights and “X acceptance” movements provide the existence proof that such things are possible, however difficult. 95. James Baird Says: This is sad. I didn’t realize you were getting outright abuse especially anti-Semitic attacks from some people. Anyway there is a clear line between disagreement/debate(which to me is enjoyable because I learn a great deal from different opinions) and abuse. Safe spaces do not draw that distinction but the line is between agreement and disagreement so as to enforce a single unquestionable dogma which is why I do not endorse them. But moderation of the blog is a reasonable option that I’ll hope you go with. Peter Woit’s “Not Even Wrong” has a very strong moderation policy that not only filters for abuse but relevance to the discussion at hand. A certain former Harvard physics fellow used to have a blog where the vicious abuse came not from the commentators but from himself and then he would ban anyone with whom he disagreed which was ironic because he wasn’t a fan of “safe spaces” and would tell you using the most vitriolic language. 96. Ajit R. Jadhav Says: Dear Scott, I will make an exception and submit a comment. I have a suggestion. Please see how it goes by you. Hire someone to pre-screen comments for you. However, instead of deleting the abusive or harassing comments, have them moved into a special folder. Then, use them as the training data for an AI-based solution for filtering out comments. I mean, not just by originating domain names or IP addresses, but also using NLP-based techniques for the contents. (It could be a good student project with some industry collaboration too. The source code could be put in the public domain, for benefit of others who face similar problems.) Sometimes, it so happens that just the knowledge that one is getting to a solution, by itself changes one’s own mental state/attitudes. So, perhaps, even the pre-screener may not become necessary after a while. Substack does not have LaTeX. Best, –Ajit 97. bystander Says: Hi, I’ve read somewhere that bullies want to see their victims suffering. If you prevent them to see it, like if you will not again and again allow their comments in, it may end up by itself. You’ve been doing the opposite up to now. BTW Experience of another blogger that I know is that it helps when the commenters have to do some action to post comment. And that making it at least somewhat difficult for commenters had repelled most of haters. YMMV. 98. Michael Gogins Says: I am a long time reader of your excellent blog, and an occasional commenter using my real name. I am have a strong feeling that bullying and, even more, lying online will if not checked destroy our freedom, such as it is. I suggest changing your Comment Policy as follows: In order to comment, you must fill out your online name, full legal name, postal address, and email. Your legal name, address, and email will not be published. If, however, it turns out that you have submitted false information, you will be permanently blocked. In addition, you must check the box that indicates you agree not to post comments that express ad-hominem attacks, hatred of groups of people, or use a snide and patronizing tone. If after agreeing to these conditions you do post such comments, you will be permanently blocked. If you feel you have been wrongly blocked, you may post a comment appealing the block and it will be reviewed, but not by me personally. All comments are placed in moderation and reviewed prior to appearing. Comments that link to a paper or article and, in effect, challenge me to respond to it are at severe risk of being left in moderation, as such comments place demands on my time that I can no longer meet. You’ll have a much better chance of a response from me if you formulate your own argument here, rather than outsourcing the job to someone else. I sometimes accidentally miss perfectly reasonable comments in the moderation queue, or they get caught in the spam filter. If you feel this may have been the case with your comment, shoot me an email. 99. feminist liberal arts type Says: Scott #92- The right? No. The morality of it? Yes. I could have missed something, but you come across to me as believing in truth as your master value. And that if you value truth, it is morally virtuous if not obligatory to keep your spaces open to all perspectives, including those which deny others equal personhood or human dignity. You also seem to treat these laissez-faire social norms as a defining feature of Nerd identity. I think this is one of the core flashpoints between you and your progressive critics. It’s a, if not the, reason why Nerd-progressive alliances don’t work. You routinely publish comments from people who show nearly as much cruelty towards progressives, women, and LGBT people as “Typical Scott” and “Trans Lives Matter” showed towards you. Many different constituencies within the progressive coalition consider this a flat dealbreaker because they just will not accept social conditions of helpless vulnerability. Women in STEM and gamer spaces are constantly screaming about the horrible atmosphere. These laissez-faire nerd social fallacies are why. It’s a major reason I’ve stopped seeing myself as having anything meaningful in common with nerd identity. It’s just flat out opposed to my self-interest. I think you are *absolutely justified* to put up walls between yourself and nerdphobia, and exclude nerdphobes from the discourse. I mean, every public space should do this, because nerds deserve human dignity. But you should treat others as you wish to be treated, and thus exclude sexist, racist, and homophobic abusers as you are preparing to exclude nerdphobic abusers. If you can’t live your own principles without mindwarping pain, maybe your principles don’t actually promote human well-being? 100. lewikee Says: Scott, One of your endearing qualities is that you wear your heart on your sleeve. That is indeed a “point of weaknesses” that the sadistic trolls take advantage of. Despite that, I hope you don’t change! I doubt you would anyhow, at your age 😉 If others could moderate for you, that would be a great solution. As others have mentioned, some commenters prefer to remain anonymous (with no ill will). 101. Anonymous Says: Scott, you should just delete all off-topic/trolley comments. If that’s too time-consuming for you, hire a moderator to do so. 102. Vanessa Kosoy Says: I vote for any option except #4: without your participation, a lot of value would be lost. Option #1 seems to require the least effort on your part AFAICT. 103. Aspect Says: Anonymity is not that big of a price to pay. The first option sounds good to me. 104. Some support Says: Hi Scott, I think outside comment moderation is the best idea, but I would also register with my name. I am a progressive and a feminist, so I feel I should say a few words of support since you asked for them. 🙂 I’ve read your blog for many years, and it is one of my favorites. I like the scientific expositions the most, and I can at least feel that I have an inkling about developments in quantum computing. I have also read some of your papers and your textbook, which I thought were really inspiring. So kudos to you for all of your efforts to make these ideas accessible. I am very sorry for the hard times you faced psychologically. It pains me to see you relive this trauma again and again with abusive people who are clearly operating in bad faith. All of those things that you asserted about yourself as nerdy or awkward I don’t see as true at all. I have not seen you do anything I considered wrong from a progressive standpoint. I think you have some friends and colleagues who are much more questionable, but I won’t play a guilt by association game. Your biggest crime here seems to be an occasional epic lack of common sense. One of the basic skills of an intellectual (even a very young one) is to take ideas you encounter with a grain (or boulder) of salt. It’s strange to me that feminism would send a teenage boy/man into a spiral of nearly suicidal self-hate, any more than a middle class kid should be sent into some sort of tailspin by reading a communist manifesto. Some ideas and facts might be wrong, and some treatments are hateful. With the latter, they should be tossed aside by most people, especially the vulnerable. My armchair guess is that you were being put into situations you were too young for since you skipped many grades. Somehow feminism seems to get most of the blame for your early unhappiness, which is amplified in the comments, but from the outside I doubt it. I have to say I am not certain that people encouraging you with the shy nerd engagement are sincere. They could very well be another type of troll. The incel/sexually frustrated road to fascist politics and violence is clear and has been commented on throughout the twentieth century as well, and I believe it should be taken very seriously. Maybe a good enough dating/adulting guide could save us all. 🙂 But I don’t think that you need to engage personally. For any sincere ‘nerdy’ young guys, most of you are fine, and many of you are not even nerdy. I say this as someone with a Ph. D. from a very ‘nerdy’ and male dominated department. There is a toxic minority, and I think that ties into broader abusiveness in academia. Most people, including women, non-nerds, and movie stars, face romantic rejection. Please try not to take it so personally and be patient. If you are a nice person and make an effort, things are likely to work out for you. The idea that young women walk around hating male ‘nerds’ in general is a paranoid fear in my experience. In any case, thank you so much for the blog, the papers, and your book, Scott! 105. Nate Says: I support whatever decision you make but I do love reading your comments, so I would prefer a de-anonymized system over you leaving us 🙂 106. Dan Staley Says: I’ll throw in my 2 cents that I dearly hope you’ll find a way to continue reading and responding to (non-abusive) comments. I find reading your responses to comments to be just as engaging and insightful as your main posts. I think human pre-screening would be ideal – I’d volunteer myself if I had anything that looked like free time these days. But if that’s not feasible, I far prefer a de-anonymized comment section to a de-Scotted one. Side note: I wonder how GPT-3 would respond to abusive comments? A properly-trained neural net could save a lot of time in responding to them! 107. Gadi Says: There’s a huge difference between scientific validation and emotional validation. Science advances not by validation from the “scientific community” but by validation from objective reality. Galileo wasn’t “validated” by the philosophical community at his time. Kepler’s laws and Copernicus were all against the mainstream views at their time. Einstein contradicted the consensus theory of aether at the time. Science advanced because of the ability of all these people to suspend their social instincts to stay with the herd. Even the so called crackpots creationists occasionally turned out to be correct with the “Big Bang” theory, which turned out to be correct despite the fact that it was motivated by purely creationist ideas. The validation was never about other’s opinions, it was despite their opinions and because objective reality exists. It is perfectly OK to seek validation from objective reality. Other’s opinions are not objective reality. Crackpot theorists shouldn’t seek validation from the “mainstream”. They should seek validation from reality. Emotional issues, on the other hand, have different rules than math and science. There’s no objective reality of your brain having “incel neurons structure” or whatever. If you want to understand it, there’s psychology. The gist of it is that everyone is flawed in so many ways, dealing with other’s emotional issues is an incredibly difficult job even if you are their personal psychologist, and dealing with these issues properly requires a level of emotional intimacy you are only close to reaching with your close loved ones. You don’t have any hope of fixing a troll commenter’s emotional issues any more than I have hope solving AI’s racial bias by writing comments to you on this blog. Talk to a psychologist about how difficult his job is, despite his emotional intimacy with his patients AND his superior (relative to you) knowledge of the workings of the human psyche. He might tell you how many sessions his patient still uses sadistic displacement defense mechanism (look up defense mechanism in Google to realize how fucked up are all humans) on others to cope with his lack of acceptance by his father. How much stronger the psychologist needs to be to withstand those displacement attacks, identify the deeper emotion driving it, talk to the patient about it, and even after sessions and sessions of the patient acknowledging the underlying issue, it’s still hard to change behavior or to normalize emotional response. This isn’t an epistemic bubble, these are the reasonable boundaries where being open emotionally can progress you further as a better human being. What you were trying to do is “psychology crackpot” in the sense that there are many established theories about how people think and their emotional problems. In all of them, people intentionally hurt other people emotionally almost always because of their own internal emotional problems, and almost never because of an intrinsic objective issue with the victim. They will also never admit it because admitting it will ruin the effectiveness of their coping. If you want validation, seek validation that you understand how people behave, because that is the objective reality. But what people think about you isn’t objective reality. They can hate you for telling uncomfortable truth or love you for repeating a comfortable lie. You can’t deal with those people because you don’t have the psychological tools to do it, and doing it without them is like treating a virus without PPE. You get hurt. These emotional defects are contagious in various ways. The best you can do is build up a firewall and open up emotionally to people who know you and love you. If you get hurt, you talk to people who love you and self-reflect about why you were hurt and resolve it, but not in front of adversaries. Not because they are right or wrong, but because they do not know you emotionally well enough to resolve your issues, and that was never their purpose. If you aspire to help other bullied nerds, start by being truly anti-fragile to bullying yourself (to the extent that the bullying is psychological, of course). 108. Leo Says: Whoever these trolls are, we can rest assured that confident, happy people do not spend their time abusing and posting trash on the internet. Your blog is a gift to humanity and I hope you find a solution that works for you. 109. Roger Says: That IP looks sketch AF: https://scamalytics.com/ip/isp/24-shells Probably a Russian/Chinese troll farm IMO. China is spending huge amounts of money on online trolls to spread division and anger in the US. All these accounts are probably Chinese trolls. 110. Sonya Says: I could be a screener, provided my day job approves this secondary employment (I don’t see why they wouldn’t). I would have the advantage of providing a completely unbiased academic perspective on account of finding the actual subject of the blog incomprehensible. There might also be some amusing irony in hiring a comment screener who actually is a female you knew in high school, if not one who was in any position to be sneering. (And there are two things I never thought I’d say in the context of applying for a job). 111. Clint Says: Scott: You, and this blog, are a treasure. I have always been in awe of the depth of your charity and patience towards everyone – even those from wildly varied backgrounds who are just plain wrong or ignorant about computational complexity and related topics most of the time (myself included 🙂 ) Certainly want to support you in your goals: (A) I cannot continue dealing with regular harassment (B) I’m determined not to “surrender to the terrorists.” (C) I can’t “just delete” harassing or abusive comments As regards the options: (1) Close comments except to commenters who provide a real identity (2) Move to Substack (3) Someone to pre-screen comments (4) Make the comment sections for readers only, eliminating any expectation that I’ll participate. (2) and (4) seem to pretty much equal to (B) as some measure of retreat or surrender and would dramatically alter or diminish the historical character and functioning of the blog. (1) and/or (3) then would get my vote. Neither is “perfect” and either/both would require some development/management/tuning. But those would allow the blog to continue as it has while decreasing the probability/frequency of trolls getting to you. 112. Jair Says: I think just requiring registration would go a long way. You don’t need to require real names to be public (a lot of people are shy), but real names for registration, and maybe a brief bio / affiliation. OK, trolls could still get through, but it’s a bit more effort. 113. Karen Morenz Korol Says: I think it’s really valuable to have an open comment section that you also read – a lot of interesting discussions are had here, and not everyone will have signed up the first time they encounter a post they want to comment on (nor would they necessarily bother). I think there is some value to the anonymous option because it allows people to comment on socially sensitive topics that they might otherwise not want to for fear of career retribution – but this benefit might be outweighed by the risk of mean trolls. Therefore I like the idea of getting a person/some people to pre-screen comments for you, and I would be willing to volunteer to help with this as well (maybe it is good to have a young female grad student doing such a thing so that you can’t be accused of making some kind of old boys club of toxicity? But then, maybe its not worth worrying about people who would accuse you of such a thing anyways….) 114. Ben Bevan Says: Yeah just do option 1. If people aren’t prepared to own their comments then sod em. Above all else please keep the blog going. I love it 115. Scott Says: feminist liberal arts type #99: You routinely publish comments from people who show nearly as much cruelty towards progressives, women, and LGBT people as “Typical Scott” and “Trans Lives Matter” showed towards you. Can you give me an example, of someone cruelly attacking a specific woman, progressive, or LGBT person as I was individually cruelly attacked? If so, I’ll fix it and will apologize for failing to live up to my own principles and stated comment policy, if only due to inattention. I do hold the free pursuit of truth to supersede almost if not quite every other value. But here’s where you’re mistaken: I agree that totally unmoderated forums don’t necessarily optimize for the pursuit of truth! For godsakes, scientific journals and conferences are some of the most stereotypically truth-focused forums on earth, but also some of the most heavily moderated. So far, then, we’re in complete agreement. The differences come down to implementation. I will happily delete anything that an apolitical person, or (let’s say) a progressive intellectual from 60 years ago, would agree was a racist or sexist or personal attack. What I’m not going to do, is to censor the expression of libertarian, conservative, etc. opinions, which have been expansively redefined as racist or sexist or personal attacks that constitute direct threats to readers’ safety. Of course there are difficult cases, but that’s the general principle. Would you agree that this is the crux of the matter? 116. Craig Says: Scott, you have to be smart enough realize the real reason you are getting these bullying comments is because these women all actually have a crush on you but are upset because you are already taken. This is what happens when you become famous. 117. mls Says: @feminist liberal arts type #25 Your request is not clear. If it is about the misbehavior attached to liberal causes, do you really need evidence beyond the events on West Coast during the Trump administration? Rosa Parks had engaged in civil disobedience. And, in a country which espouses the equality of individuals, her acts seem warranted. Violent civil unrest is another matter. If it about the isolation of individuals in a social order with respect to sexual selection, there has been plenty of research of animal models in primate communities. When Chicago had its first May Day parade in support of immigration rights, my job site had been shut down. When leaving, a Polish immigrant marching in the parade looked at me and called me a racist. So, wearing a hard hat makes someone a racist. Meanwhile, a Polish immigrant on the jobsite had been regularly making demands of his African-American scaffold partner with the words, “Nigger, get me ….” Then there was the time when I was 12 years old when my classmates thought it would be cute to “stone” me with broken pieces of asphalt. I spent two weeks with patches on my eyes and almost lost my vision. The girls had already decided that someone who could not beat up gangs of 6 to 10 bullies at a time was not a human being worth speaking to. So, there is no need for personal stories as your request is answered in other ways. But, you are welcome to as many as you want. @Dr. Aaronson My name is Mitchell Smith. I received an undergraduate degree in Pure Mathematics from the University of Chicago. My academic career ended ungloriously with a manic episode (or would you prefer the Newspeak of bipolar disorder). Before that event, my professors had written recommendations which generated admissions offers from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Berkeley, and numerous land grant colleges. After that event, these same men would barely acknowledge that I had been a student of theirs. My family had been poor and stupid. Never having heard of manic depression, we took it as another medical diagnosis. My professors, of course, had understood the world according to a different indoctrination. The people of your community — regardless of the polite words issuing from their lips — are generally as contemptuous and hateful of the mentally ill as any other social class. I am grateful for the few exceptions. Manic depression is an episodic illness. I have been very fortunate compared to most. I taught myself information technology and had become an Oracle database administrator with Sun Microsystems certification for Solaris systems administration and network administration. Then some clown named Alan Greenspan fucked hard-working Americans with 17 interest rate hikes in a row. Those “nerdy types” you wish to help… they hated me as much or more than the 12 year olds that pelted me with asphalt (or jumped me in gangs… or threatened to throw me out of a third floor window… or stabbed me… or tried to shoot my poor cat… ). In general, it took me about a year to get my work responsibilities under control at each job (At the NCSA, my predecessor manually changed records to fix displayed data in an unnormalized Sybase database. So, instead of consistently incorrect data, the office workers got inconsistent data. Gotta love it!). By then the ad hominem watercooler talk by my nerdy coworkers had made my work environment poisonous. During the dot-com bust (for anyone old enough to understand the Alan Greenspan reference) I always looked like a good prospect to the business management. But hiring had become some crowd-sourced decision by then. Trekkies who quote Dune books really don’t want co-workers who read topology and measure theory as a hobby. So, now I swing a sledgehammer fixing building facades on Chicago’s lakefront. It is interesting to watch the ethics of college-educated rule-followers crumble when the speculative budget estimates are overwhelmed by what would actually be required to repair a building. And, it is heartbreaking to see the goodwill of racists and chauvanists when they are asked to do precarious things in violation of safety rules so that all of the big talkers can “save face.” Of course, those are the same men who would not have thought twice about beating me in their youth. Because of the way in which my academic career failed, I have studied the foundations of mathematics for my entire adult life. All I seek is an “-ism” which respects the fact that the theory of evolution is considered to be among our best science. The evidence for “objective abstract objects” is no better than the evidence for a diety or plurality of dieties. According to science, we are evolved biological organisms. Any theory of truth that ignores that scientific claim is useless as a justification for science in the face of its critics. Of course, the “math geeks” are as fluent with the word “crank” as the “nerdy types” had been with the word “stupid” 20 years ago. Imagine, a one-day old operational data store failover copy on a spare Solaris server being “stupid.” So, there you have it — a full name and profile. What good will it do? The world is full of insensitive people. The world is full of violent people. The world is full of cowards who cannot back up the words that come out of their mouths. You have a family. Love them. Protect them. Do what is best for them. I will continue to sign my rare and intractable comments as ‘mls’. And, when you change your blog for a saner comment policy, it will lose value for me. So be it. Do what is best for you. 118. Ola Drozd Says: This is the first time I’m actively commenting on your blog. This blog will not be the same place without your active participation in the comments section! The abuse is horrific and +1 towards support to whatever you choose to do. 119. Anon?? Says: I think this is the second time that I leave a comment on this blog. As a girl, I support the MeToo movement but am completely and utterly horrified by BA’s comment. On two occasions, I ate at the same table as Scott and certainly didn’t find him to be creepy or smelly. 120. phi Says: Art #84: Using one of the free versions of GPT-3 is a good idea! Just to expand on how one would actually implement this: Abusive text is more likely to follow other abusive text. Compute the probability that GPT assigns to the text of the comment under moderation following a bunch of examples of abusive comments, then compute the probability assigned to it following innocuous comments. Compare the probabilities to determine which category the current comment more likely belongs to. 121. Lars Says: I’d suggest that Scott implement an automated filtering process whereby any comment that includes “you”, “your” or his name or the name of any family member is deleted before Scott even sees it, since one or more of those would very likely be part of any personal attack. (And even if a comment is not technically an attack, there is no reason anyone should be writing personal comments to Scott here on his blog.) There is no reason that any legitimate comment should have to include ANY of those. An example of a comment to be filtered out is found above: “You routinely publish comments from people who show nearly as much cruelty towards progressives, women, and LGBT people” DELETE! PS Further filtering terms like “the blog owner” could be added as needed to screen out attacks if the trolls tried to get “clever” (as clever as trolls can get) and circumvent the filter. 122. pete Says: I didn’t read all of the comments here so apologies if someone else suggested this: How about just deleting the posts yourself. The vast majority of readers of this blog trust you to remove hate-filled messages. 123. HasH Says: Thanked and subbed Boaz Barak’s blog. Btw I didn’t know we can say “Fuck” trolls!.. 124. mls Says: Dr. Aaronson Many of your commenters have suggested the use of an algorithm. Undoubtedly, something could be applied since your particular circumstance adds constraints. However, it is a difficult problem. Dennis Hamilton brought the link, https://spectrum.ieee.org/gamers-toxic-ai-detection-overwatch to the attention of the FOM mailing list today. Mr. Hamilton’s posting is at the link, https://cs.nyu.edu/pipermail/fom/2022-July/023495.html Some of your readers might find the IEEE link to be of interest. 125. Scott is a Hypocrite Says: Scott: My biggest problem with you, is that you are a total, unapologetic hypocrite. You come here complaining and whining about all the “hate” you receive. About people being cruel to you. But, at the same time, you relish the opportunity to be cruel to others. That’s called hypocrisy. Want to hear some examples? When you have someone who’s so brilliant and so interested in pursuing theoretical computer science. He’s so excited to show you his proof that P=NP. Resolving literally the longest standing problem in CS. And you brush him off. You refuse to even read his article. Because he doesn’t have a fancy degree. And because you refuse to understand the argument. That digital circuits can solve NP hard problems by inverting each logical operand. You, Scott, don’t understand it because you are a hypocrite. You relish the opportunity to be cruel to the so called “cranks” and “crackpots” just trying to sjow you their original and creative work. Dhame on you Scott. Shame on you. 126. Scott Says: Scott is a Hypocrite #125: I have no memory of the interaction you’re talking about—there have been too many of them—but I’ll tell you the same thing I tell every other P=NP prover: implement your algorithm, use it to prove the Riemann hypothesis and mine$1B in Bitcoin, send me half the Bitcoin, and I promise I will read your paper. 😀

(And even before then, I promise I won’t leave hostile comments on your blog, or do anything else even vaguely analogous to what the cancel-warriors have done to me.)

127. Chang Says:

Scott,

Did Mr. “Typical Scott” leave any email address? Could you try getting in touch with him / tracking him down that way?

128. Scott Says:

Chang #127: A fake one. This is part of the question: whether commenting here should require registering with a confirmed email address.

129. YD Says:

Lars #121:
I can’t tell if you are serious or a (meta) troll. In case you are serious, here are some examples of things that would be deleted according to your logic:
– Any reply to Scott‘s comment
– Citing an Aaranson et al paper
– Any mention of the other Scott
– Anything about the famous computer scientist
Dana Scott (no relation to either Dana or Scott)
– “Thank you

Option 1: Not every commentator here has a website, nor has one provided by their affiliated institution if any, nor has the requisite HTML/CSS/Javascript/et cetera knowledge to create a personal website. As a result, I am against this option if having a website ends up being a prerequisite for posting comments on this blog.

Option 2: I am not sure how the comment section of Substack works. Depending on how the comment system works, this option may end up being either equivalent to the status quo, option 1 without a website requirement, or option 3.

Option 3: By process of elimination, this is the least worst option of the 4 options if you don’t intend to pull a Scott Alexander and abandon SlateStarCodex for Substack.

Option 4: This is tantamount to admitting defeat, which is quite contrary to your goals for the blog and the comment section. As a result, I am also against this option, even more so than option 1.

131. feminist liberal arts type Says:

Scott #115-

Okay, your view is different from my impression of you, apologies. I still don’t agree exactly, but I don’t wish to debate the matter, because the reasons have lots of moving parts and it would take several essays to explain them. I will say I find the “apolitical person or progressive intellectual 60 years ago” test kinda arbitrary, for a reason I think you will understand: majority or historical opinion is often just wrong. I think moral progress is possible, education improves people, and expertise matters.

“For godsakes, scientific journals and conferences are some of the most stereotypically truth-focused forums on earth, but also some of the most heavily moderated.”

That’s an interesting point, which I had not thought of. I will think over how this fits into my worldview. You know, the actual scientists I’ve known personally have been very different and much better than the nerd culture types who make their identities about “reason and science”.

Personally, I’m for political correctness and cancel culture all the way. These are good things and we need more of them (altho like anything they have misapplications, abuses, and failure modes). Organised or emergent social boycotts are a useful social technology, just like economic boycotts. When I throw parties, I post a formal statement to the effect that people who do -isms, -archies, and -phobias in my house will be asked to leave in one of two ways, “within 5 minutes” or “over the balcony”. In the future I’m adding nerdphobia to the bad things list. Because it’s not okay when people do it to you either.

I hope you can respect that social justice advocates have thought-out reasons for our positions, even if you disagree with them. And that we can disagree on this, and act on those disagreements, but still be on the same side when in comes to priority zero issues like fascism or climate change. I do appreciate that you’ve taken the time to listen to me.

Mis #117-

Thank you sharing.

“Then there was the time when I was 12 years old when my classmates thought it would be cute to “stone” me with broken pieces of asphalt. I spent two weeks with patches on my eyes and almost lost my vision.”

This is horrible and I’m sorry they did this to you.

132. Colleague-to-Colleague Says:

Dear Scott,

Let’s hope that this comment will be let through despite your new comment policy.

Speaking of hypocrisy: Unfortunately I do agree with the comment #125 as I am intimately aware of what you are capable of in this very blog when the issue is about something you don’t have your usual sensitivities (or it’s plainly about “other people”). On one of the countless occasions you have attacked ideas/papers/fads on this blog over the past decade, based on some self-proclaimed notion of “guardian of the truth” , you positively impacted someone’s life in a hugely negative way.

I know this because I was on this person’s faculty search committee.

I personally witnessed a young faculty candidate’s name was circulated in internal faculty meetings (in an institution you are intimately familiar with) with incendiary quotes taken from a blog post of yours, full of unnecessary insults and salvos. What’s worse, what you were trashing was (and is) a legitimate field that you are, perhaps, only tangentially related to. So we are not talking about dismissing people who make outlandish claims like #125 is suggesting. I believe I can pull it up by an easy google search because I am pretty sure you are keeping this up in your archives.

Because this young person had the unfortunate luck to be featured in your blog, despite otherwise having nothing to with you, they lost out on an otherwise very promising bid, changing their life trajectory.

Do I need to remind you how rare it is for anyone to have a chance for a faculty position?

In your disagreements (when you feel you are the perceived expert) you are patronizing, unreasonable and sometimes plain wrong and I have never seen you exhibit any sort of humility in areas where you think the buck stops with you. When you disagree with your definition of crack-pottery or doofosity, you have a ruthless style, and with you realizing this or not, you end up destroying other people’s lives. I know one truly astonishing example but I am 100% sure there are others.

Maybe the increased levels of vitriol you are experiencing will make you remember the “human” yourself, in the future.

Colleague to colleauge, best wishes.

133. Olivier Says:

It’s probably not that hard anymore to design a bot that tries to trigger people.
At some point, we all have to try to develop some sort of immunity to that stuff, maybe by just considering that the probability of this possibility can only grow increasingly with time.

134. JimV Says:

As this comment thread might illustrate, there exist people with mental problems which create delusions. These people are not capable of being persuaded out of these delusions, in most cases. Their existence is full of frustrations since their delusions are not shared by most people, so they may lash out verbally. This causes harm to other people, but the greatest harm is to themselves, as they were before the mental problems occurred, which in many cases is in their 20’s or early 30’s. I know of such a case, and consider it the worst tragedy with which I am acquainted personally–although I know greater ones exist, in places like Ukraine.

I sometimes forget this possibility myself, but think it should always be considered when an unreasonable comment is encountered. That is, it might be that the appropriate emotional reaction might be sorrow for the commenter.

That doesn’t mean such comments should be accepted, of course.

135. Josh Alman Says:

[WARNING: Josh Alman emailed me to explain that this comment wasn’t actually written by him, but by an impostor. I’ve never dealt with anything of this kind before. –SA]

Scott, something I admire so deeply about you are your steadfast moral principles, and how you apply them universally—not only for those who you disagree with, but even for contemptible and disgusting people. Please—I implore you—take down the personal information for this person. For 17 years you have always respected the anonymity and the privacy of those who choose to comment on this blog. This is a very dark road to go down. This person might deserve it, but it’s a dangerous slippery slope to go down. Don’t give the haters and the trolls the satisfaction of making you sacrifice your deepest held moral principles—respecting the privacy and anonymity of those who critique or even attack you, even the most brutal ones. Please, take down this information and don’t do something like this again.

136. Scott Says:

Colleague-to-Colleague #132: Alas, I can’t even begin to mount a self-defense against your anecdote without specifics that you seem unwilling to share. Like, are we talking about Integrated Information Theory or its offshoots? Analog devices for solving NP-complete problems in polynomial time? Superdeterminism? Refutations of Bell’s theorem? In any of those cases, I’d be happy to walk you through why some of the claims that were put forward were so wildly irresponsible as to provoke my snark, which I do try to keep in check. All the same, it’s not like I have a ghostly seat on faraway faculty search committees. It’s up to the actual people on them to integrate all the relevant information—interviews, rec letters, papers, conceivably blog posts—and make whatever decision they judge best in light of it.

If you want to make the case that a specific skeptical post of mine was wrong … well, at least there’d be something to talk about! If you’re uncomfortable doing so in public, you can email me, from a throwaway address if you want.

137. Scott Says:

Josh Alman #135: Thanks, but I don’t actually believe that there’s some inviolable moral principle saying that commenters on the Internet must always be shielded from real-world consequences for their behavior, even if they gleefully demean your wife or children out of sheer cruelty. Certainly the social-justice people don’t believe in any principle of that sort, to put it extremely mildly! And certainly I’ve never enjoyed the protection of any such principle: essentially everything I’ve written for 20+ years, I’ve written under my real name, with my employer trivial to find. Indeed, people enraged at this-or-that have repeatedly written to my department chair or my dean to try to get me fired, fortunately never with success.

In short, it doesn’t feel to me like I’m compromising my principles here. It feels to me like I’m following a consistent set of principles that might differ a little from yours.

138. Rana Hanocka Says:

[WAS FROM AN IMPERSONATOR, NOT THE REAL RANA HANOCKA. DELETED BY THE LATTER’S REQUEST. –SA]

139. Colleague-to-Colleague Says:

Scott:

No it was none of these things and I don’t want to be specific for the sake of that someone else who still has to live in the real world. My public revealing of any further information would be a dead give away.

Let’s just say that it was one of those cases where there was a result, and then a third party reporting or commentary on it, where the third party commentary triggered your snark. I only saw what was circulated and did not read your blog, but let me tell you, if that’s your snark in check, I wouldn’t want to see your snark unchecked.

I’d be very happy to tell you more about the specific thing, if what you want is to “mount” a self-defense, but honestly, what would be the point? I guess our young colleague could not mount such self-defense when your blog was being viciously used against their case by a faculty committee who deeply respects what you have to say. Yes, I liked the candidate and their work but come on, now, you’ve been in the biz long enough to know that it’s very hard to overcome a negative spin for a candidate who has about 2-seconds to be moved on. If the great Aaronson is so disgusted by their work, how could we hire this person?

Regarding the content: yes, I very much believe that your criticism was misguided, well, partly because you weren’t being careful of what the work was saying vs what the commentary it generated was and if we had a glass of wine over this work, I am pretty sure you’d be in pleasant agreement with the bottom-lines. At least that’s what I liked to believe at the time, it’s been a while.

The past is the past. Just remember the human. If you are so disgusted by snark, I very much wish you do not write things that I saw you wrote about anyone, regardless of the perceived crackpottery. Especially young scientists.

If you must know what I am talking about, I won’t hide behind it, but I, too, have to live in the real world and I don’t want to test how much power you have in the academic the world, I have probably revealed too much, already.

140. Daniel Seita Says:

Hi Scott,

I really liked the post by Boaz Barak and I’m happy that he and many others will support you during these times. I also have really appreciated the opportunity to read from this blog and learn from you.

It’s obviously up to you what you want for your comments. In terms of the 4 options, here’s how I would list them where I list from best options to worst options (from my view).

1. Close comments except to commenters who provide a real identity—e.g., a full real name, a matching email address, a website.
2. Hire someone to pre-screen comments for me, and delete ones that are abusive or harassing (to me or others) before I even see them. (Any volunteers??)
3. Move to Substack, and then allow only commenters who’ve signed up.
4. Make the comment sections for readers only, eliminating any expectation that I’ll participate.

141. napoleon bon apetit Says:

Hire some people to moderate the comments and be done with it. It would really only take one person. You should also prevent people from using disposable email addresses

142. Scott Says:

Colleague-to-Colleague #139: From what you write, it sounds like the problem wasn’t with my actual post, but with someone who read into my post something that I didn’t say or intend. Alas, I don’t know of a good general solution to that problem, although maybe I could think of something if you trusted me enough to share details.

143. Aloni Cohen (IMPERSONATOR) Says:

IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN UNMASKED AS BEING FROM AN IMPERSONATOR, NOT THE REAL ALONI COHEN. –SA

——————————————–

Scott, Josh is 100% right IMO. Personally I study the intersection of CS and constitutional privacy rights. Now I’m not saying that doxxing is a matter of constitutional law, but I find it morally reprehensible in an age of internet communication where the expectation of privacy is part of the unwritten social contract. The comparison you make is invalid. You chose to put your real name and your institutional affiliation on this blog. That was your choice. Those who comment here—no matter how disgustingly angry at you they may be—made no such choice. They comment here under an unwritten expectation of anonymity and privacy, a line that you have now crossed. Many people share intimate experiences and thoughts, weird and unorthodox ideas on this blog, all under an expectation of privacy. You’ve now thrown that to the wind. To reiterate, you chose to put your real name on this blog, while an anonymous commentator has not consented to you releasing his name. I also implore you to take down this personal information.

144. Richard Gill Says:

Dear Scott

I think you’re going about this the right way. Converting a disturbing incident into a creative discussion on internet behaviour and giving insight into the depths of human nature is a master move.

Keep the blog as open as possible. Asking for an email address is fine. If it’s clearly a one time disposable email address don’t approve the post – it’s a spammer. What’s a ‘Name’? I hope you will allow pseudonyms. Requiring a ‘Name’ is nicely ambiguous.

I have some thoughts on the Buddhist take on this. Certainly the affair illustrates all I’ve been learning in recent years.

Richard

145. Colleague-to-Colleague Says:

Scott #142

Let’s just say that it was undeniable you were critiquing the work and even the people behind the work based on the quotes that were being circulated. If you must know, I promise I will share these with you (I am traveling internationally but will be back soon), I doubt there is anything to be done about it. Everybody moved on.

I am not 100% from that field, but we all knew that it was not one of those cases where somebody was claiming something obviously wrong. They were sincere. I do not frequent this blog very often, I am here accidentally, and I wanted to share this with you for at least 2 years.

I hope you take something out of it, powerful people like you need to remember the power they are wielding. If a mindless PhD student can hijack your world based on libelous and false claims, your words can easily hijack an entire search committee, believe me.

146. Raoul Ohio Says:

Along with 99% of the readers, I love the blog, which is great and unique in many ways.

Your energy and willingness to discuss everything with everyone is great. A miniscule fraction of commenters are crazy, evil, troublemakers, whatever. In a way it is great that you try to reason with them, but it obviously exerts an emotional toll. I couldn’t do it, and have probably have suggested in the past that you ignore them.

So you have to do something for SO to survive. Whatever method you choose will have good and bad aspects — that’s the way it goes. If it costs much please include a “go fund me” like mechanism.

BTW, on a “different kind of crazy” note, now that another five years of bigger and better Dark Matter searches have come up with zilch, I am down-adjusting my estimate of the likelihood of DM actually existing from 0.80 to 0.75.

147. Ken Says:

I wish you were constitutionally capable of ignoring the sick people who get a kick out of triggering you. You’re you and you can’t, but please know anyways that they’re not worth a moment of your time. And, beyond your personal need to respond, there is absolutely no reason why their trash deserves any response at all, other than hitting the delete button.

On WordPress or substack, can you create a system where users have to privately identify themselves to you or your system along with a username that will publicly appear with their comments (which could be their real name, but need not)? That way people would have to identify themselves, and you could ban them if they abused the comments, but could stay publicly anonymous. Those who are volunteering to moderate might instead volunteer to do the identity verification.

Please don’t end a system where sincere people can post comments and you are engaged in the conversation. It’s one of the most wonderful things about this blog.

148. Karen Morenz Korol Says:

Maybe I am too harsh, but people who made it to this blog are internety enough to know that the internet is not really private. I don’t think one should expect privacy when they go be a jerk online.

That said, I think Josh makes a good point that you also don’t want to “give in” to them. Or maybe you really should take, like, a long weekend vacation (til Monday?) to not look at this corner of the internet at let the dust settle so you can decide if it really is what you want to do with a clear head. As others have said, your blog has a lot of power. Maybe those commenters don’t deserve any mercy and maybe they shouldn’t expect any, but maybe you want to show some anyways. Or maybe not, idunno.

149. Lars Says:

Comment 129 says :

I can’t tell if you are serious or a (meta) troll. ”

I am serious (and the beauty of my policy is that comment 129 insinuating that I might be a troll would also be deleted)

“In case you are serious, here are some examples of things that would be deleted according to your logic:”

Actually. No. Replies can be to comment numbers (as I have done above)

– Citing an Aaranson et al paper”

No. Papers have titles and can also be linked.

” Any mention of the other Scott”

Not sure whom you are referring to but if it’s a comment or paper by another Scott, the above apply

– Anything about the famous computer scientist Dana Scott (no relation to either Dana or Scott)”

No. The full name “Dana Scott” is easily differentiated from either Scott Aaronson or his wife

– “Thank you”

“Thanks” does the trick if people know the rule, which they presumably would if the comment policy was prominent

True enough, but if Scott had the policy in place, I would not need to be referring to him personally, would I?

150. red75prime Says:

Aloni Cohen (IMPERSONATOR) #143:

> You’ve now thrown that to the wind.

I trust Scott to not disclose personal data without a sufficient cause. I had all manner of evidence that Scott’s judgement of what is a sufficient cause is sound. And I do not expect it to change.

151. Mateus Araújo Says:

Dear Scott,

First of all, I’d like to emphasize that you have my full support, politically, personally, and scientifically, for whatever is my support worth. Your blog is a precious resource, both for your posts and the discussions in the comments. It would be sad to see it go because of harassment by anonymous trolls.

Secondly, let me give you some advice on dealing with them. I have a blog myself, which has an order of magnitude less comments, and thus an order of magnitude less abuse, but still I got some nasty stuff posted there. What I do is never publish them, never respond to the abuse. This is exactly what the trolls want, and if you feed them they’ll keep coming. I’m horrified at the commenters here saying that you should publish the abuse. That’s terribly naïve. The only time I responded to abuse is when I got some particularly nasty comment calling me a nigger among other things. I didn’t do it in public, though. I tracked down the troll in real life and confronted him. He apologized and never bothered me again.

Another thing you could do is require an account to comment with your blog, with a confirmed email address. It’s easy to implement in WordPress, and creates both a barrier against lazy trolls, who are the vast majority, and a way to ban people that’s not completely ineffectual. Several blogs I follow have used this strategy, with great success.

152. OhMyGoodness Says:

Aloni Cohen #143

This is a personal non-profit blog. Comments are allowed at the sole discretion of Dr Aaronson as the intellectual owner of this website. The most fundamental human right is defending oneself and one’s family from unwarranted attack. To claim otherwise breaches his moral obligation as a responsible family member. To expect protection of anonymity by Dr Aaronson no matter how vile the comment regarding Dr Aaronson’s family is not reasonable.

In day’s past Dr Aaronson would have been obligated by honor to challenge this person to a duel. Currently his best option is to act in a manner that doesn’t recognize the right of someone to attack his family and expect protection of the lesser right of anonymity in return.

He suffers personal attacks without responding in kind but attacking his family is beyond acceptable bounds and his response entirely reasonable.

The left is on its usual path of destruction of the family in favor of the State but in this case they will find very strong resistance in this regard.

153. David Karger Says:

I agree with Josh Alman (IMPERSONATOR) #135 and Aloni Cohen (IMPERSONATOR) #143. Doxing has exactly 2 possible outcomes: (1) nothing, (2) a campaign of mob harassment against the target, completely apart from any legal assessment of guilt or innocence. If you dox, you lose any moral authority to complain about “lack of due process” in harassment cases like Joshua Katz’s. Indeed, you lose moral authority to complain about harassers posting nasty comments about you. I know we come from the eye-for-an-eye religion, but it’s progressed since that principle was proposed.

154. barbara Says:

Dear Scott,

ever since I came across this block, it has been a constant source of intellectual inspiration to me. In particular since the world became weirder and weirder, you have been one of my sparks of light. Thanks so much! I admire you for your courage to share your thoughts, and I am deeply sorrow that your efforts are rewarded by troll attacks.

I will support either way you choose that enables you to continue blogging and commenting. Unfortunately, I can not offer time but money: I would be totally fine with paying a monthly fee or accepting ads whereof the income allows you to pay people filtering content.

155. Mark Says:

Wow. I just saw the troll comments and I’m so sorry you had to deal with them. This is simply cruelty for the point of cruelty – similar to the trolls who send flashing GIFs to epileptic people in order to trigger seizures. I don’t know what the best commenting policy is, but I want you to know that nobody should have to deal with this kind of harassment.

156. Bill Benzon Says:

Since I’m not a regular reader I’ve been wondering whether or not I should say something about this, this, whatever it is. But…

I’ve known about your blog, Scott, for some time and have dropped by occasionally when someone somewhere mentions a post. Most recently I dropped in for the Pinker debate. I’ve been reader Pinker since before the web and I’ve been interested in AI even longer. So that was a natural. The discussion was interesting, I posted some, and figured that would be that. Then along came the God of the Gaps which, well, just why anyone assumes that machines will inevitably outstrip us when, really, we haven’t got much of an idea about the underlying mechanisms beyond COMPUTE-TO-THE-MAX!! – that serious people believe such a thing, that interests me too.

And then you dropped your account of life as a young math-loving n… n… ne… I can’t even bring myself to type the word I dislike it so much. Don’t like “g**k” any better and the English language doesn’t seem to have an affectively neutral term, so I’m stuck not being able to say what I mean.

I recognized the description and assumed many readers would as well. But I was also wondering just what it was doing in here.

And then things went to hell and you’re stuck carrying the damn handbasket.

When we’re young we chant, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” We chant it because words do hurt. That doesn’t change as we mature. The nature of the pain may change, we may have some distance from it, but the sticks and stones still hurt. They won’t stop hurting until we’re dead, either metaphorically or literally.

First, I think you should just step away, for a week, a month, leave the blog alone. Get into your new gig, watch kid’s movies with your wife and kids. If you’ve not watched the original Fantasia recently, watch that. Despite its many flaws, it IS one of the great films of the 20th century. I mean where else can you see an imaginative account of the whole cosmos, animal, vegetable, mineral, human, imaginary, etc., the whole shebang in only two hours. Of course, it’s not a kid’s movie, it’s a cartoon. Then some Miyazaki. Whatever.

Unfortunately you seem to have become a (just barely) public figure and, as such, people think they own you. You have come to represent something to people, different things to different people, and are expected to answer to those representations. I don’t know how you deal with that. Walking away is certainly one option. If you do that you have to give the good discussions that happen and have happened here. Still, it’s an option. If you decide to keep the comments, do whatever makes sense to you. You shouldn’t have to read with such comments.

157. Scott Says:

Josh Alman (IMPERSONATOR) #135, Aloni Cohen (IMPERSONATOR) #143, David Karger #153: OK fine, I removed the IP addresses. I did it, however, not because I acknowledge any moral obligation to protect the privacy of people who viciously and sneeringly attack my family (!), but solely for the instrumental reason that publishing IP addresses didn’t seem to help anyway in figuring out who these people were. If I knew who they were, I’d feel no hesitation, zero, about bringing the hateful comments to the attention of their companies, universities, etc., and letting the latter respond in whatever way they thought was appropriate.

158. Anon?? Says:

I want to add to my earlier comment and say that you should hire someone to pre-screen the comments or do whatever it is that you’d prefer to do to not be distracted by anonymous trolls. Focus on the good parts of your life, such as your work and family. Also, as you have probably realized, BA could be an impersonator, or she could have a mental illness (e.g. bipolar disorder?); I have trouble imagining a sane grad student deciding to comment like that.

159. colleague-to-colleague-to-colleague Says:

Hi Scott,

Just to throw my two cents in, colleague-to-colleague’s posts sound untrue. Just a lot of “trust me, you were real bad… I have evidence which I could totally send you, and I’ve been harboring this grudge for years, but not right now I’m on the move with only just enough time to allude!” (lol).

Even if they are real, I find it so-unbelievable-as-to-be-amusing that anyone’s response to the attack on your family would be “you should think on your past (vaguely described?) sins”. For what it’s worth, I’ve found your responses eminently understandable and, if not always morally unassailable, completely human.

TLDR: imho totally ignore the haters, totally ignore until something actionable,

thank you for listening to my TED talk.

160. Bill Kaminsky Says:

First, I’m sorry you’re going through this, Scott.

Second, I fear that having some sort of active, professional comment moderation (or at least quasi-professional-despite-being-volunteer) is necessary *even if* you were to move to Substack and thus have everyone commenting both

(a) paying some actual $$for the ability to comment as well as (b) paying that$$$through credit cards and thus really, really tying their possibly pseudonymous public online identity to the real identity. After all, the “other Scott A” — i.e., Scott Alexander — does have to still do a small-but-nontrivial amount of active comment moderation on his Astral Codex Ten Substack, and if you, Scott, are finding that too psychologically taxing presently, you’ll need someone else or some whole other team of someone elses to do it. //// [Attention Conservation Notce!] Those two points above are my main points. But, if you, gentle reader, have time to kill and want to read my secondary points, read on! \\\\ Third, on that note of Astral Codex Ten, I do think there’s other “best practices” that are worth considering adopting beyond the 4 options you mentioned. Namely, Astral Codex Ten — and, indeed, I dare say the vast majority of blogs and Substacks that have very active commentariats — generally have *tiers* of posts. Some posts are, in essence, single-topic. In the context here, that could be something like: (1) This particular post is resolutely a *technical* quantum computing post. Comments and questions not germane to the *specific* quantum computing topic at hand aren’t welcome in the comment thread to this particular post. (2) This particular post is resolutely an *intersection* of science-and-*policy* post. (I’m thinking, say, the controversy over CA public school math curricula.) For such posts, while the management of the blog realizes various broader hot-button issues naturally surround the issue of the post, please post comments and questions *as if you were a policymaker really concerned about what specifically should be done in this particular case* In other words, the comment thread for this particular post will NOT allow anything seeming like general laments, cris-de-coeur, and manifestoes that veer toward “OMG! Look at that faction that disagrees with me!! Allow me to expound in learned fashion — or, heck, just complain catharctically — how their motivations are fundamentally borne of a pernicious false consciousness, if not self-interested ulterior motives, if not a straight-up greasing of the metaphorical slippery slope to Civil War / Cultural Revolution / etc.!” (3 –$N-1$) Various looser tiers all the way up to… (N) OPEN THREADS!!! Ok, folks, now’s the time to expound in learned fashion how there’s various potentially influential-in-the-near-to-medium-term factions affected by false consciousness, ulterior motives, and — possibly, just possibly — a desire to grease the slippery slope to the giant conflagration that will overturn all things. (It’s presumably flammable grease in this metaphor, natch!) THAT SAID, we’re going to *actually strive* — as opposed to just pay lip service — to the notion that we’re expounding in learned fashion on these hot-button topics. Heck, we’re even going to *actually strive* to some norms conducive to not pushing the stressed-out-among-us-at-the-moment all the way over the f@$king edge. For example, I like the following norms that come from ye olde SlateStarCodex subreddit (which, admittedly, are not achieved on a semi-frequent basis):

————–
Be [actively] kind. Failing that [because you are arguing for a conclusion that you honestly believe is in society’s long-term interest but you know will strike many as unkind], bring evidence.

Be charitable. Assume the people you’re talking to or about have thought through the issues you’re discussing, and try to represent their views in a way they would recognize.

When making a claim that isn’t outright obvious, you should proactively provide evidence in proportion to how partisan and inflammatory your claim might be.

Don’t be egregiously obnoxious.
——————

Again, such ideals are hard to actually meet. Hell, it’s getting hard to just be online without achieving Bodhisattva-level enlightenment. But I do think ideals broadly in that direction should be explicitly stated and enforced even on “open” threads.

In closing, I’m sorry you’re going through this, Scott. Andy Warhol should’ve added a corollary to his quip “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”, namely: “That means that, like me, all y’all will get to experience at least one fateful 15 minute period where you’ll be shot by some crazy person who’s written an even crazier manifesto describing supposedly beneficial acts for society over-and-above literally shooting me.” (If I could do an eyeroll emoji, I would. I wish all y’all in general, and you Scott specifically, all the best in staying sane in this crazy world.)

161. Art Says:

phi #120:
Right! My guess is that the most efficient prompt will end up being something like
‘the comment policy of this blog is “x”, an ethics professor brings up the following example “y”. A student asks ‘does this meet the policy?’ the professor answers”
And then just check the probabilities of yes and no.

mls #124:
You’ll note that a comment thread is public, it should meet the policy for this community and not moderate private messages, so I think we’re in the space where AI does well. Though I’m not proposing letting the model run free. Best practice imo is to verify it on ~25% of early posts, fine tune the prompt to better match the intent, and then drop off the percent checked next run. It’s a classic semi-supervised learning setting, you want to be correct (and update with drift), but avoid taking too much time from the teacher.
Eventually, you check a fraction of a percent of moderation decisions every month, see nothing wrong, and go enjoy life.

162. bystander Says:

@Colleague-to-Colleague: you are making it up, right? If it were true, you would put it here w/o writing your name, etc. You would stay anonymous, while Scott would get what went wrong.

@Scott: It looks like a new way of trolling, trying to convince you that you’ve done s/t bad. To my eyes it looks quite similar to the SJW screaming, as that was blaming you on wrongdoing alike.

BTW You summon it on yourself by bowing down to all the SJWs all over the web. It is like nectar for them, thus they flock around that, enjoying your apologizing behavior. If you want to, I can blame you to. It is easy.

163. Boaz Barak Says:

Josh (IMPERSONATOR), Aloni (IMPERSONATOR), David: I wish you wouldn’t refer to posting the IP address as “doxxing”. The latter usually refers to posting someone’s home address, phone number, photo, and other personal information.

If someone posts a comment on a public website, they know that the website collects some information about them. Scott doesn’t make any guarantees about never releasing any of it, but does explicitly forbid as hominem attacks and hatred of groups of people. If you blatantly violate the explicit comment policy you shouldn’t expect protection by (a non existent and invented) privacy policy. If and when you start your own blog, you are free to provide ironclad privacy guarantees to all commenters, but Scott never made any such promises.

An “eye for an eye” here would be Scott attacking the family members of commenters, or their appearance or hygiene standards. I would indeed condemn Scott if he stooped to that level but I am sure he won’t.

164. Lars Says:

It just seems like writing an automated filter to weed out nasty personal attacks from legitimate comments (on the topic of one of Scott’s posts) should be relatively easy by focussing on key words and perhaps how they are used (phrases like “you are a hypocrite”)

My guess is that someone has already done this.

After all, it’s not rocket science. Only computer science.😀

165. manorba Says:

dear scott, long time lurker but this is just my second post. first one was about the chances of us being in a simulation (not because i have some crackpot theory, it’s just that as a 53y old rational person i struggle to believe that the last 10 years have really happened)…
anyways, just a couple ramblings.

1) about the personal attacks,so many smart ppl are screaming at you :”why do you care? theres no point, they are trolling”. given the fact that you are a very smart person too, why don’t you listen to them? then i remember that you’re still in your early 40s. 10 years on you would really listen to those ppl. While i applaud your motives as i always do, this stance is going to bring you more harm than good. (see the “i want my friends to take a side”)

2) Mr Aaronson, you have no idea how much your blog is important for many sane people around the world. personally it has been a beacon of reason (together with charlie stross blog and disinformation.eu) through covid, trump, brexit, what here in italy we call “sovranismo” (which is just good old time racism ad bigotry directly funded by the kremlin) and now this “war”. and the comments section has been a treasure trove of information and ideas on every subject. it’s probably even more valuable than your own posts, and it’s not a diss on you.

ok just being too verbose

tldr: ditch the trolls and find a way to keep the comments alive.

ps. i hate substack with a passion even if i don’t know why

166. William Gasarch Says:

(I should try to read your posts as soon as they come out, otherwise I am the 150th or so commenter and whatever I say has already been said.)

Screening either by you or someone you pay or use an ML (not sure that’s a good idea, but could be a good experiment) seems to be the simplest way to block trolls.

1) What is your criteria- Probably best to not reveal that, or else you will get people gaming the system. Prob best to have a human just use their judgement.

2) Free speech. Not a legal thing (its a private blog, not the government) but the question still arises- are you quashing good ideas. First off, uh, NO given the comment that inspired your dilemma. But second, getting trolls out of the comment section could increase the quality of conversation since, for one thing, a blog on (say) quantum complexity stays on quantum complexity.

3) Lance and I moderate comments ourselves which we can do since we get far less of them and they are almost never personal. Our biggest problem is spam, e.g.,

Like post on Ramsey. Buy tuxedos here for a good price.

Either spam or they want me to look good when I accept the prize money for better bounds on VDW numbers

but seriously- just curious- do you get spam also?

167. A Says:

One option: Moving the comment threads to reddit, setting up Automoderator to heavily filter comments, and getting community members to regularly clear the queue as moderators.

168. Still Figuring It Out Says:

I agree with Carl Lumma #26 that you should use a less strict version of option 1, where commenters need to verify their email using a link before their comment enters your moderation queue. As other commenters pointed out, not everyone has a website, and your blog’s comment section would become a less vibrant space for discussion if people are not allowed to post anonymously. If you add a mechanism where you can ban email accounts associated with trolls, those trolls will be inconvenienced by going through multiple email addresses.

169. Colleague-to-Colleague Says:

# 158, #161

The post is 100% true. And it seemed appropriate to bring it up now, since the context is “harm” and how one person’s snark, based on whatever justified indignation, can be someone else’s misery.

I will share details with Scott, and he will be able to corroborate it via his colleagues later.

170. Sandro Says:

I think you can revise the first option, “provide real identity”, to address some people’s misgivings. For instance, you must provide your real identity but can also optionally provide a pseudonym, and only the pseudonym is publicly visible. The identity is only needed in case of abuse or harassment. If that was the intent it wasn’t clear.

That seems like the most sensible option, and the smallest change from the status quo, but this has a potential downside as well: collecting real addresses and identities makes you a more attractive target to hack. Maybe this blog isn’t big enough to be a tempting target, I can’t say.

I’m already registered with substack so I wouldn’t mind that option either. Their interface could still use a little work but they are constantly improving it.

I hope you can find a good solution because you shouldn’t have to endure abuse for us to all continue enjoying good conversation!

171. Chris Says:

I surely hope you keep the comments section. You have in my opinion the best comment section anywhere on the Internet. As for the harassment of you and your family, that is obviously unacceptable. I’d support you getting someone to read and filter the comments, although quite honestly I’d pay a nominal amount on substack to have access to your blog since it is so good.

172. Sandro Says:

Aloni Cohen #143:

Those who comment here—no matter how disgustingly angry at you they may be—made no such choice. They comment here under an unwritten expectation of anonymity and privacy, a line that you have now crossed.

Can’t say I agree. Scott is accepting comments on his blog under an unwritten expectation of honesty and good intentions. Harassment and abuse do not qualify.

I’m not a fan of doxxing in general because it can lead to disproportionate consequences for the degree of transgression, but if that becomes the official policy then that’s a good deterrent against abuse. I think Scott has been pretty good at setting a very high bar for this, much higher than most other sites.

173. Two cents Says:

Typical Scott and BA have demonstrated that there’s really no consequence for hateful trolling when it comes from comes from the woke feminist types – assuming that the BA post came from a real person with the same name, website. You could get away with it by cloaking it in social justice jargon even if you voluntary posted with your name and 100% of the readers consider it hateful harassment. In my opinion, until there’s a consequence, this automatically eliminates mandating real names as a viable solution to the content moderation problem. I wonder if an incel would have gotten away with it for an equally hateful post if they had been doxxed.

174. Rana Hanocka Says:

[WAS FROM AN IMPERSONATOR, NOT THE REAL RANA HANOCKA. DELETED AT THE LATTER’S REQUEST. –SA]

175. Scott Says:

Rana Hanocka (IMPERSONATOR) #173: We already are on “summer vacation,” at the Jersey shore. An actual vacation, though, would mean Dana and I leave the kids with someone else and then go someplace where we could do research! 😀

176. Lars Says:

Someone has already investigated the issue of identifying and filtering abusive comments

Using deep learning to identify abusive comments

177. Jacob Steel Says:

There’s a rather wonderful English radio sitcom called “Cabin Pressure” that I can’t recommend heartily enough.

Here’s some dialogue that got cut from it because there wasn’t time in the epsiode, but was posted to his blog by the author, John Finnemore, some years ago, and that’s always struck me as wise.

—-

MARTIN …What I mean is, the thing to remember about bullies-
MAXI I know, I know, ‘they’re cowards really, you’ve just got to stand up
to them.’
MARTIN No, no. Some of them are cowards, but some of them really aren’t.
No, the thing about bullies is, they do it for fun.
MAXI How does that help me?
MARTIN Well, it gives you a strategy. Be boring to bully.
MAXI How?
MARTIN Don’t react much. Don’t try really hard not to react, because that’s
fun to watch. But otherwise… just sort wait for it to finish.
MAXI And that works?

MARTIN I don’t know… I never learnt to do it. But I think it might.

—-

I think that people send you abuse because they want attention. If you can force yourself to just leave shitty comments in moderation without even mentioning that they exist, I suspect you’ll end up getting fewer.

In terms of your suggestions, my guess is that demanding names and addresses will result in you getting a lot of abuse from M. Mouse, Disneyland, Florida, and while no-one else will have to read it you still will. Making the comments subscriber-only or having someone else screen them for you might be better, if you can?

178. Rana Hanocka Says:

[WAS FROM AN IMPERSONATOR, NOT THE REAL RANA HANOCKA. DELETED AT THE LATTER’S REQUEST. –SA]

179. Scott Says:

Rana Hanocka (IMPERSONATOR) #177: Thanks, I’m sure our kids would like that … although frankly, only the mentions of BQP and nerds vs. feminism told me that I wasn’t reading an ad. Sounds like Disney should hire you! 😀

180. Rana Hanocka Says:

[WAS FROM AN IMPERSONATOR, NOT THE REAL RANA HANOCKA. DELETED AT THE LATTER’S REQUEST. –SA]

181. Stephen Says:

Scott, you are absolutely right about this. Your time and wellbeing are valuable and you have a lot to contribute to mankind. The burden on you of dealing with random sadists and sociopaths on the internet is not worth it. I would even be inclined to consider taking it a step further: limit the comments to a specific list of permitted people and institute an application process for additional members to join.

182. Roger Schlafly Says:

Scott, you acknowledge “vigorously defending myself once attacked.” No kidding. Donald Trump also does that, even when his advisors urge him not to. Go ahead. But please don’t try to get people fired for their online foolishness. You are better than that.

Someone appears to have been impersonated. I am taking that at face value. The hateful comments are still very good illustrations of a certain point of view. You are doing a public service by allowing these comments, and rebutting them. So I vote to keep the blog as is. Just delete the comments that drive you nuts. You don’t have to give a platform to your enemies, or to trolls, spammers, and others.

183. Michel Says:

Re Colleague-to-colleague #132: Scott, this person is using a well-known non-sequitur discussion ploy effectively saying: “your pain is made unimportant by pain you did cause sometime/somewhere”(or even”therefore you deserve it”). This is a falsity to steer the discussion away from the main point: The genuine complaint, the real and present pain. The claim might be true, but is simply not a case in point, and has no place here. Ignore this trick being used here. Whether you did cause real harm should simple be handled elsewhere, outside this specific blog.
And really: What I do not trust is why it is conveniently brought up only just now. That smells.

184. Danylo Says:

> I can’t “just delete” harassing or abusive comments, because the trolls have gotten too good at triggering me, and they will continue to weaponize my openness and my ethic of responding to all possible arguments against me.

Dear Scott, let me give you an advise as Ukrainian.

The time for openness, reasoning, and finding a common ground with aggressive bullies is ended. You just have to accept the horrible truth — there are people that want you to suffer no matter how honest you’re trying to be, no matter what good things you’ve done to this world. You are not them. You are better than them. So they want to destroy you.

But don’t be afraid. There are good forces in this world too. They want you to live, create and write exciting posts about quantum computing and other stuff 🙂

185. Ivo Says:

Scott, for what it’s worth, as a long time lurker I have noticed the comments from people using their real names are by far the most insightful and valuable.

+1 for the first option.

The blatant concern trolling by ‘Colleague to colleague’ and ‘feminist liberal arts type’ is just shameful. Engaging with such trolls is waste of precious time that could spent with family, doing science or writing blogposts.

Thank you Scott for being a voice of reason and doing what you do.

Hey Scott,

Now that I wrote one nice reply at your site/blog, it’s now your nice turn to visit my (American-*owned*) blog, OK?

Best,
–Ajit

187. Rand Says:

Strong preference for #3.

I do think that requiring or encouraging people to use their real names is a good idea, but not a solution to the problem. Moderators can be stricter about anonymous comments, though.

188. Rana Hanocka Says:

[WAS FROM AN IMPERSONATOR, NOT THE REAL RANA HANOCKA. DELETED AT THE LATTER’S REQUEST. –SA]

189. Scott Says:

By now, three CS professors commenting here — namely, Josh Alman, Aloni Cohen, and Rana Hanocka — have been unmasked as impersonators (!!).

I’m obviously the target of one or more motivated attack-trolls who know something about the CS community. This might be the weirdest thing that’s happened to me in 17 years of blogging.

190. Atri Rudra Says:

Hi Scott,

I’m sorry to hear about the (worse than usual) abuse aimed at you and your family.

You should choose the option that gives you the (most) peace of mind. I don’t think opinion of someone like me who is a regular reader and sometimes reads the comments as well should matter that much.

But since you asked [:-)], personally I would not be in favor of the substack option. All the others would work for me (though as has been pointed out by other commentors on this thread, some folx might not want to use their real name).

–atri

191. William Says:

Scott,

It may seem like these trolls have disrupted things here. But, at least on the other thread, I think they were actually a plus. They may have derailed the original topic of conversation, but they helped generate a lot of really interesting and helpful discussion about nerds and sex. My two cents: change nothing. Just go with the flow. Let the trolls troll, and when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

192. HasH Says:

Scott is a Hypocrite Says:
Comment #125
My new consipiracy: I think Supreme AI already exist and he is trolling Scott to stop him work on “ethic”.
Dear Supreme AI I am still in your side (if you are in our working class side).

High Love from Overseas!

193. Eric Says:

Scott,

Am I having a drug induced hallucination? What in the fuck was that stuff about disney ships? Like what actually was that? Is this some kind of inside joke i’m not in on or something? I’m just trying to wrap my mind around what’s going on here. It’s just so bizarre.

194. Scott Says:

Eric #193: I’m trying to figure it out myself—like I said, this is already the weirdest episode in this blog’s history, which is saying something. Evidently, whoever was impersonating Rana Hanocka thought that it would be hilarious to talk me into taking my family on a specific Disney cruise, and became increasingly insistent about it. The funny thing is, a family cruise is not such a bad idea at all … except why that specific one? 🙂

195. mls Says:

@feminist liberal arts type

When I was young I thought that a great many things were important. And that is how a young person should be. With age, one learns that the world is a very gray place and that black is often not much different from white.

If you have never read “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed” you might consider doing so. While the deeper arguments which are far beyond my comprehension seem to be controversial, what I took most from this book is within the text of its Wikipedia description,

“It is easy for the oppressed to fight their oppressors only to become the polar opposites of what they currently are. In other words, this just makes them the oppressors and starts the cycle all over again.”

My stupid and ignorant way of saying the same thing is that “Man cannot escape his own logic.”

As Michigan Avenue stores were being vandalized a few years ago, I seem to recall an interviewee declaring “You are either with us or against us.”

Good luck in pursuing your causes.

196. dan Says:

Could this be a job for GPTx? I’m almost only half kidding. How hard would it be to train a deep-learning network to distinguish trolly, off-topic posts from legitimate ones? If false positives are a problem, the system could reach out to the author of the suspect post to give them a chance to defend their comment as legitimate, meaningful discourse. I suspect most trolls would tap out at that point.

This problem of course is not unique to you. I’m sure you are aware of the endless insane sexual verbal abuse practically every she/her person who has an audience on the internet is subject to.

Don’t let them win.

197. Psy-Kosh Says:

Wow. I had missed the initial incident, but… eeew. And double eew that people are coming here to just wag their finger at you more as a result. I don’t know which option is the best, and though I know I seldom comment here, I do hope you’ll find a way to continue to participate while managing to give the boot to the trolls.

also re #194… The weirdest? if we’re just talking weirdness, wouldn’t https://scottaaronson.blog/?p=277 beat that? Or does that not count as a thing that happened “on this blog”?

198. We Are Legion Says:

Scott,

There’s no need for you to shut down your blog. There’s no need for you to transform your blog forever. There’s an easier way out.

I represent the group that you call the “anonymous trolls and impersonators.” I’m here to negotiate terms for calling off this—what you call, this “attack.”

If you follow my instructions, I swear, right hand to God, that we will call off the trolling. Your blog can return to its usual discussion of quantum complexity theory.

What you will do is book a voyage onboard the Disney Wish within the next two months. I will send you an email address, where you can forward the confirmation of the booking. Upon receipt of that confirmation, we will call off the trolling on your blog.

What we will not do is explain ourselves. There are things in the balance here that are much more important than you or your blog. Suffice it to say, you must board that ship within the next two months. That’s all you need to do. That’s your role.

It’s either get on board this ship, or change the comment policy of your blog.

199. Dirac Says:

I’m baffled how this turned so quickly into a Kafkian nightmare. I think the most insightful lesson from this exchange isn’t about the trolls and their ridiculous lines (forget it, they got nothing to do with social justice), but how an orchestrated attack can alter your balance and sense of reality in a glimpse. This kind of identity deconstruction must be hard-fought, it has been at the service of totalitarian regimes for eons, and has reached unprecedented levels of danger in the age of digital information.

200. Scott Says:

We Are Legion #198: In that case, it’s an absolutely trivial choice, namely to change this blog’s comment policy! And it’s not even as urgent as it was before I understood your M.O. And the idea that I’d trust any of your “oaths,” after this insane experience, is laughable.

(Also, while I might’ve actually considered the Disney Wish, now I’ll surely have to pick a different cruise or other vacation for my kids, to avoid even the appearance of surrendering to bizarre trolls!)

The one silver lining is that, when this is over, I get to go back to being me, whereas you have to go back to being whatever sort of person would steal people’s identities to troll a blog.

201. We Are Legion Says:

Scott,

202. We Are Legion Says:

Scott I’m not a bad person. I promise. I’m sorry the way this turned out. I’m sorry. I’m just so sorry. You don’t know what it’s like to be gripped by obsession. You don’t know what it’s like to need something so badly. It aches my soul and heart. Scott. Please find it in your heart to forgive me. I’m sorry the pain I caused. I hope you can still consider the ship. It’s what I look forward to.

203. M2 Says:

I’m sorry this is happening.

I agree with those who are against moderators (other than Scott). The comments are one of the greatest values of this blog, notwithstanding the frequent excellence of the posts.

I like option 1, but hopefully identities don’t have to be public — people could register with Scott, getting permission and identity validation before being allowed to comment, but usernames could hopefully remain hidden.

It is a sign of our trust in Scott that some of us feel comfortable with his knowing our identities but not with the public doing so.

204. We Are Legion Says:

Scott I’m really sorry. I’m just sorry about this whole thing. I have this obsession. I am on the ASD spectrum. I really want you on the ship. I’m sorry about this thing. Perhaps you can still go on the ship. I hope things can be okay between us. I hope you can still go on the ship. I hope I haven’t given it bad memories for you. You are a great person. I’m so sorry I had to do this. There’s nothing I want more in the world than to get you on board that ship.

Also, I’m sorry I lied. There’s some trolling here I’m not behind. Like this BA thing. I don’t know who said that. Or Typical Scott. But I’m the impersonator. I’m sorry for doing it. I just really wanted you to go on the ship. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.

205. Jair Says:

Scott, your update at the top seems a bit misleading. Saying that “someone appears to be impersonating me” is an explicit denial of writing the comment, or at least very close to such. I would just list her as another being impersonated rather than single her out for not giving a sufficient repudiation.

I’m sorry you have to go through this nonsense. You and your blog are an inspiration to many.

206. Safety Consultant Says:

Scott, I find it rather concerning that the troll wants you to step aboard a specific ship. They might have some form of access and might be willing to harm you or your family once they know you are on board. Best to stay away from the Disney Wish for the foreseeable future.

207. Ordinary Joe Says:

ok I’ll throw in my two cents as well.

1. Have people register to submit comments with a valid email check as occurs on 1000s of websites. It will remove 99% of random abuse and spam and make moderation much easier. Anyone dedicated enough to jump through the hoops can be easily banned.

2. Dox the harassers. Too many people here think anonymous harassment is somehow a god-given right. Once you decide to viscously attack people you have lost any right to privacy. I would even go further and criminalize this sort of abuse, fining companies heavily that allow it.

3. Do not give trolls and abusers a platform, ever!

208. OhMyGoodness Says:

Scott#200
Are you sure this wasn’t your children working with GPT-3 to scheme a Disney vacation?

209. Scott Says:

Jair #205: OK, fixed.

210. Scott Says:

OhMyGoodness #208: That’s the most plausible theory I’ve heard so far!

211. Scott Says:

Incidentally…

Dana: OOOF! The milk was left outside all night!

Me: I’m really sorry. I don’t know how it happened.

Dana: What do you mean you don’t know how it happened? You were thinking about how you were going to answer the trolls on your blog, is how it happened!

212. Art Says:

The impersonator and their responses since are exactly what I expect from someone LARPing as a not-yet-omnicient AGI for Disney’s marketing team. It’s an “AI uses weird causal links to optimize a function no person would care much about” plot (in this case, use a history of bullying to sell cruise tickets? Analog to sending blackmail to people to get more paperclip manufacturing), except the AI plan failed and it got spooked by this. Manually manipulate someone in some over the top scheme using Internet info.

Going with this silly model… Actually, the real mark might be getting the cruise detail into some news story on this? Maybe a smear campaign by a rival cruise line?

213. manorba Says:

lol. really it’s like the discarded plot for an episode of the american version of the tv series utopia. now they are just bullshitting you, it’s background noise, cultural entropy.

on a side note, don’t you agree that cruises and covid are not the best combo right now?

214. Ted Says:

Scott, which IP addresses and locations do Josh Alman’s, Aloni Cohen’s, and Rana Hanocka’s imposters’ comments come from? (There might be an argument for preserving the anonymity of general commentators – although ironically, it appears that most of the arguments on this thread for that position have come from impersonators trying to cover their own tracks. But that purported privilege certainly doesn’t extend to people who impersonate specific real people.)

You mentioned that the comment that’s allegedly from BA does come from a [REDACTED] IP address. I would echo murmur #81’s comment on the previous thread that you may want to contact someone within the [REDACTED] administration (I’m not sure whether HR, Office of General Counsel, or Security would be the most appropriate department) that someone in the [REDACTED] community is allegedly impersonating a [REDACTED] student in a public online forum. If that’s true, then the alleged perpetrator might also be doing it to other students, and it’s definitely something that the administration would want to know about.

And while I assume that you aren’t considering doing so anyway, I would echo Safety Consultant #206’s recommendation that you definitely stay away from the Disney Wish cruise line for the foreseeable future. I think this is almost certainly some weird prank and you wouldn’t be in any physical danger, but there’s no reason to take that tiny risk if it wasn’t something that you were planning to do anyway.

215. Ryan Alweiss Says:

Scott #211: Shtetl Optimized commenters should start a GoFundMe to reimburse you and Dana for the milk. It’s only fair.

216. wb Says:

Scott,

>> Disney ship
as soon as you announced to work on AI safety this blog turned really weird … obviously “they” are worried about what you might do and try to distract you …

217. Triceratops Says:

Deeply saddened to hear of the milk’s demise. Wiping away tears as I imagine Scott and his family huddled around the kitchen table, children clad in Dickensian rags, scooping dry cereal out of the box with soot-stained hands.

The trolls have gone too far.

218. Scott Says:

Triceratops #217: Hero that I am, I walked to CVS to buy new milk.

219. Scott Says:

[COMMENT REDACTED SINCE IT COULD IDENTIFY BA]

220. Chip Says:

Scott #211:

Allow me to propose a thought experiment (paraphrasing Erwin Schrödinger): A quantum complexity theorist is penned up in a soundproofed windowless room, along with the following device (which must be secured against direct interference by the theorist): in a Geiger counter, there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small, that perhaps in the course of the hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases an axe which slices open a carton of milk that said theorist left in the car overnight in the middle of July in Texas. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the theorist has not blown chunks if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The first atomic decay would have resulted in the theorist doing the technicolor yawn. The psi-function of the entire system would express this by having in it the ralphing and non-ralphing theorist (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.

In this scenario, would you either lose your lunch or not lose your lunch, or would you be in a superposition of the hurled and non-hurled states until your wife opened the door to check on you?

Or, since you’re not a cat, is this more of a “Wigner’s friend” sort of situation?

*Are* you, in fact, a cat? After all, to paraphrase the famous _New Yorker_ cartoon, on the Internet no one knows you’re a cat. How are we supposed to know? If the Multiple Worlds interpretation is correct, is there another branch of the wave function which is identical to ours except felines evolved intelligence before primates did, and cat-Scott also left the milk out overnight? If so, how cool would that be?

Also, given that a pair of milk cartons left in the car overnight in Texas in the middle of July would have entangled states is there some way they could be used to demonstrate “spooky barfing at a distance”?

Signed,

221. Xi Chen (IMPERSONATOR) Says:

Scott, I’m not sure what’s happening to your blog. But I had a couple questions about your article on BQP. My work touches on classical complexity theory a bit, but by no means am I an expert on quantum complexity classes, so please bear with me if I seem really ignorant. I’m trying to work through your article, but I’m stuck on your derivation of Proposition 40. I can’t understand where the bound came from at the top of page 33, on the total number of gates of this quantum circuit that you construct. I’m also not sure how you get from Proposition 40 to Corollary 41. Again, quantum complexity theory is not my field. But can you give me a reference for how you relate query complexity and oracles in this way? Like, I’m not familiar with what you mean by “the same purpose as in RST15.” I don’t want to work through that whole paper. Could you explain like the basic idea behind that?

222. Karen Morenz Korol Says:

Based on your updates, I change my vote: people should have to prove who they are somehow. I like anonymity but I don’t like people impersonating others. Does substack have such a functionality?

223. Scott Says:

Before we close this bizarre and extraordinary thread, there’s one other thing I should say, for the benefit of any shy nerds who might have read the now-infamous BA comment and been (re-)traumatized by it. As I mentioned before, counting generously (including even when I was an undergrad), I worked up the courage to make romantic overtures to 4 fellow computer scientists in the course of my life — one of whom became my girlfriend for two years, and one of whom is now my wife. I should have added: the other two simply gave me some variation on the “you’re an amazing guy but let’s just be friends for now” speech. (Incidentally, if you’re thinking: “hey, a 50% success rate doesn’t sound bad at all! why didn’t he try more?”—well, the most infamous comment in this blog’s history was the one where I attempted to answer that question…)

What I’m trying to say is: women like the author of the BA comment, whose image of nerdy STEM guys is like something out of a Der Sturmer cartoon, really do exist! They’ve probably even become more common since I was single. But they’re still a small minority. One of the great discoveries of life is that most women in whom you might have a romantic interest really can be interacted with, one vulnerable human being to another, regardless of whether the answer (which, obviously, you’ll respect) turns out to be “yes” or “no.” And as for the rest—well, you might be able to identify them in advance by checking their Twitter. 🙂

224. this is wrong Says:

Scott,

What kind of petty behavior is this to throw doubts about someone who explicitly told you they were impersonated? Why would you be digging up their social media profiles to imply things like “see, they called Feynman a rapist so they had to have called me smelly” ….

Didn’t this person want to be left alone after your “repeated” trials to reach them? Is your self-esteem so low that the fact that they did not “repudiate” the impersonator strongly or duke you enough make you do these things?

Somebody above told you not to single her out, and in your correction you still kept quotes around “appear” to indicate your suspicions.

First you dox people who call you names and now you are going after students? … What if she really was impersonated, what benefit do you gain from digging up her past tweets?

Do better, Scott. You are supposed to be an educator … Rise above this nonsense. Maybe start enjoying that vacation a little bit more and get off the computer.

BTW – in that quote you linked, she is not essentially calling Feynman a rapist, this makes what you are doing even more horrendous.

225. Austin Says:

226. matt Says:

Scott, you are off base here, and the comments Gil Kalai made on facebook are totally correct. Seriously, the first I heard of “3 CS professors” being impersonated is that you said that they were impersonated. On the other hand, the first thing you did with AB is to post it all over facebook. Why are you treating this so differently? If indeed AB were impersonated, she has serious reason to be upset at you. It’s inappropriate to just go post all this stuff like you did. And the terse reply from her that you quoted on facebook is totally normal human behavior: imagine you were AB, and imagine that you did not send the original email, and the first you heard of it was probably a lot of people saying “hey, Scott is saying these terrible things about you and demanding a personal apology”. Yeah, I’d be mad and you’d be lucky to get a complete sentence out of me in that case. Suppose there’s even a 10% chance she was impersonated (I think it’s way way higher than that); well, you could have just ruined her career when she did nothing wrong. Seriously, just delete the whole post is the least you could do. Ok, I’ll tell you why you’re treating this differently: it’s because someone (maybe AB, or maybe not, who cares) knows exactly how to push your buttons.

227. Scott Says:

this is wrong #224 and matt #226: BA is welcome to get in touch with me to tell me what she wants me to do, including deleting the comment, deleting her name, or both — something that all three known-to-be-impersonated people did, and that BA pointedly did not do. I will follow her wishes once I have clarity. Beyond that, I’m going to try something new here:

[ … deep breath … ]

I feel like I’ve already sufficiently engaged with the issues raised in your comments, and explained how I’ve followed the dictates of my conscience at every step here. Nevertheless, I’ll allow your comments to appear in case others would like to respond to them.

228. Cho Says:

Scott, I just want to point out that these two threads have been such a fucking insane and bizarre rollercoaster—between incels, femdom porn, stinky t-shirts, crazy libelous accusations, weird impersonations, and last but certainly not least, Disney cruise ships—that the appearance of Lubos Motl was a breath of fresh air. It’s like—oh, thank God, Lubos Motl is here, at least he’s something stable and predictable compared to the rest of this psychotic mess.

229. Alice Says:

Scott, I’ve really got to disagree with 226 and 224 here. Firstly, Ms. BA didn’t actually repudiate the content of the comment, she didn’t ask you to delete the comment, and she explicitly told you not to contact her again. As others have remarked here, that does not sound like the behavior of someone who was genuinely libelously impersonated. That response definitively puts BA into a separate bucket than the three people who we know were impersonated. Secondly, the three people who we know were impersonated were all CS professors, and were trying to manipulate you (either to not doxx people on the blog, or to get you to go on a Disney cruise, for whatever insane reason), which is completely different from BA, who was a grad student and was not trying to manipulate you to do anything. This suggests that the person behind BA’s comment was a different individual than the one impersonating the three Cs profs. Thirdly, “We Are Legion” has explicitly told you that they are not behind BA’s comment. Fourthly, BA’s public comments are compatible with the sentiment of her post here. And finally, and most importantly, BA has again not repudiated the comment, not told you to take it down, and told you not to contact her—which means you are acting according to her explicit instructions.

The way I see it, the most likely scenario is that you have some real people genuinely angry at you, as well as a bizarre, possibly autistic troll trying to impersonate CS profs to manipulate you into taking a Disney cruise, to fulfill some strange fantasy of theirs.

230. Scott Says:

Cho #228: You won the thread.

I see my job in life as being to maintain my sanity no matter how insane the situation—so, for example, to make wry, down-to-earth observations about the scenario wherein Alice jumps into a specially-prepared black hole, sacrificing her life, in order that her doppelgänger in a holographic dual universe can see the solution to a problem believed not to be solvable even in quantum polynomial time. I see the present thread as just an (admittedly non-obvious) extension of that.

231. this is wrong Says:

Scott # 227:

Because you indicated did not want to engage any further, I am respecting your wishes, please allow me to respond to

Alice #229:

I understand the reaction from AB is different compared to the rest [I do not want to keep using her real name because this blog is Google indexed, and you are possibly doing her irreparable harm by repeatedly typing her name into this].

The difference is AB is a PhD student, who have far more to lose than tenured, powerful professors. As soon as she mentioned “she appears to be impersonated”, the ethically correct thing to do is to remove her name from it. The post can stay but her name should not be associated with the post, if this blog is indeed operating with honest intentions.

The “priors” and despicable witch hunting of her character based on some Twitter post does not change the basic fact that we do NOT know if AB made the post or not. Until that fact can be ascertained, keeping her name associated with that content is quite frankly disgusting, especially since Scott has heard from her and she denied making the post.

I don’t know why BA needs to contact Scott, repudiate strongly or do anything further for her name to be removed. Frankly, it sounds like she is being “punished” for her lack of repudiation. So unless she toes the line, the comment under her name stays. Wow!

Nothing changes the basic fact that we do NOT know, and everything you are saying is some plausible guess and Bayesian game.

As a completely independent bystander, I implore Scott to remove AB’s name from the discussion and keep his private doubts to himself. Let them reveal themselves through Twitter … we do not need to play the “libelous” game ourselves to make a point.

232. Dana Says:

For the record– I think that gender identity goes to the very core of someone’s being, and I wholeheartedly support everyone’s right to live a life truthful to their gender identity.

233. Robb Says:

So Scott, I’ve spent a lot of time studying this (insane) thread, and I think this is the most plausible explanation for what’s going on here.

There are three individuals in this story.

Character A — A transgender woman with severe mental issues, who reads r/SneerClub and is thereby aware of your blog

Character B — BA, [REDACTED] PhD at [REDACTED], who is a far-left progressive leftist and is aware of your blog, perhaps because of the comment 171 incident and rumors about you she heard from other feminist friends

Character C — A young autistic Scott Aaronson fan who has at least some knowledge of theoretical CS and the CS community, and an obsessive fixation on the Disney Wish ship

Character A has a mental episode after reading incel comments on your blog and starts sending you vicious hate messages.

You doxx Character A and make a new post about social justice people harassing you on your blog.

Character B sees this post, and comments, describing unsubstantiated rumors she heard about you from other social justice friends

Character C, who follows the blog obsessively, sees in this an opportunity to realize his fantasy of getting you on the Disney Wish. He uses VPNs to impersonate CS professors to manipulate you, first not to doxx your commenters (possibly to cover his tracks, so nobody realizes there’s somebody using VPNs?) and then to offer to shut off the “trolling” (which he doesn’t actually control) if you bord the Disney Wish

I think this is the most plausible scenario. What a weird fucking three days

234. Scott Says:

Robb #233: Yes, thanks, that’s the theoretical framework to which I was converging as well!

(“But in addition to these three textual sources, there also appears to be a later Redactor, who scholars of the Shtetl-Optimized Weird Thread denote by the letters SA…” 🙂 )

Scott,

Ummm… Before you close this thread…

This is not fair, OK? A visit to my blog by you is still awaited. … Else, what’s the point of posting comments at your blog, you tell me?

Best,
–Ajit

236. Scott Says:

“Xi Chen” (IMPERSONATOR) #221: I checked with the actual Xi Chen that he didn’t leave that (otherwise innocuous) comment.

As a consequence, in 25 years this is the first detailed technical question about one of my research papers that I’ll refuse to answer on principle.

The game is up, forget it.

237. Psy-Kosh Says:

Rob #233: Hrm.. I’d inclined to think that there’re also Characters D_0 to D_N for some N that’re opportunistically pouncing on some of the things being said here and running with them farther. That is, I’m not sure Legion is the original Disney cruise commenter. (Or are they? Scott, what does the IP evidence say?) But I at least _suspect_ that there are opportunistic trolls jumping in to run with the stuff already going on, impersonating the already present impersonators, etc.)

238. mls Says:

Dr. Aaronson #230

“I see my job in life as being to maintain my sanity no matter how insane the situation”

Exactly!

239. 1Zer0 Says:

It’s tragic to see such a great thought inspiring blog being harassed by vile zombies. While I personally would probably just start trolling the people back – they attack you because they want to trigger such a reaction so it’s better to laugh it off – I realize that is not a solution for everyone though.
I would suggest a Matrix or Discord Server. Large parts of the Programming Language community are on Discord by now
You could:

– appoint moderators and enable phone verification which would make it harder for people to bypass bans without people being required to reveal real names or start paying on Substack.

– Also, it has Twitter integration so a person claiming to be X who is also on twitter could just link accounts to proof it.
Also Scott Alexander’s AstralCodexTen is on Discord and it’s working quite fine there as well.

– Channels with different topics can be opened and it’s easy to ban members or just time them out.

– TeX support can be integrated as well as bots and anti spam measures.

240. 1Zer0 Says:

Ohh I forgot to mention; I see your papers and blog posts being discussed on some Discord physics, sneering and cs servers once in a while, not sure whether all of that is encouraging or discouraging.

241. Ilya Zakharevich Says:

Scott #200

First of all, you got a groupie who is going crazy from a wish to meet you. Second, they either have something like a gift certificate for a cruise, — or are just fans of Strugatskys.

The similarities with “Definitely Maybe” (“A Billion Years Before the End of the World”) are striking. — But on the other hand, this is one of the best descriptions of (non obvious details of) scientific research, so EVERYTHING would be similar to what happens in this book… (Everyone doing science should read it!)

242. Xi Chen Says:

Scott, I apologize for the confusion. Unfortunately, there is another Xi Chen at the department here at Columbia which has created no end of problems for the administrators. For example, we still have only one email address we share until the administration sorts out these problems, which the other Xi Chen has access too (while I am the only Xi Chen with a webpage). The department computer system is not equipped to handle this and they are trying to sort this out (rather ironic for a CS dept I must say). Just FYI the other Xi Chen is already one of the leading minds studying geometric complexity theory, despite being just a first year grad student. He’s the talk of the dept here (they call him the Geometric Xi Chen, just to disinguish us haha).

Anyway, I would really appreciate if you could answer my questions about your paper. Also, just on the question of the trolling on your blog, I think your best solution should be to do what the trolls suggest and book some tickets on the Disney Wish. I looked up the ship and it actually has many amenities and entertainments that your whole family will enjoy, including the only Frozen-themed dinining experience in the world, and when you board the ship, they give you an electronic “magic wand” that you can use to light up the beautiful atrium! Just my two cents, one complexity theorist to another, my friend.

243. Scott Says:

Ilya Zakharevich #241: If they’re that crazy to meet me, why don’t they just come to Austin and hit me up for breakfast tacos and iced coffee? Plenty of others have done it. It’s not like meeting Taylor Swift, where you have to work your way through a whole retinue. 😀

244. Topologist Guy Says:

Anybody who thinks BA will suffer consequences for this is sorely mistaken. In reality, she will be rewarded by her social group and her university for calling out the gross, creepy, sexist professor. That’s how things work in our woke world. I mean, come on, she’s an alleged survivor of sexual harassment—nobody’s going to go after her for this. Worst comes to worst she can just say that the “trauma” of her harassment made her vicious towards Scott.

245. Scott Says:

EVERYONE:

I’ve allowed the comment of “Xi Chen” #242 to appear, but only because this has by now become a bizarre and memorable piece of performance art—complexity theory’s rickrolling, one might call it—and it’s not my place to interrupt the artist at work. Only on this thread though. The “Disney Wish” bullshit will be ruthlessly deleted should it appear on future threads.

246. Sympathetic Says:

Scott,

The comments on this blog are disturbing and illustrate just how divided many of us are. Dark times.

I have to question the ulterior motive of these commentators. I can’t take their criticisms as sincere critiques, and instead they seemed to be designed to discredit you and smear your reputation as a person.

The BA comment is the most disturbing to me. That someone who has never met you would have such hatred for you that they would resort to calling you dirty and smelly is astonishing.

[REST OF COMMENT REDACTED AS COULD IDENTIFY BA]

247. Scott Says:

Sympathetic #245: Thanks, but I see no need whatsoever to impute motivations to the writer of that comment beyond what was actually in the comment, which was both clear and appalling enough!

248. Venezio Says:

Scott, just remember to bring enough clean t shirts when you go on the Disney Wish 😉

249. Topologist Guy Says:

Also Scott, this disney shit: do you think this impersonator, whoever he is, could be trying to communicate with you in some kind of code? I doubt he’s literally talking about the “Disney Wish.” It probably stands for something else. Anybody have any ideas?

250. Scott Says:

Topologist Guy #244: Though obviously inspired by the social-justice religion, the comment went well outside the explicit teachings of that religion when it openly mocked people for having social anxieties or speech impediments, or for their poor fashion choices or hygiene. That was its mistake. This is why your empirical prediction, about how the comment would be received by university administrators, is very interesting: because the answer is not obvious!

251. Topologist Guy Says:

Scott, I have seen so many “social justice activists” shame people for — “social awkwardness,” lack of “social skills,” being quiet or introverted or “weird,” and I’ve been a victim of some of this bullying myself. The reality is that, among the demographic of elite college students, the vast majority of “social justice” types are not actually genuinely kind people. Instead, they support “social justice” because it’s socially popular, and their entire moral orientation is towards fitting in to the ambient social environment and doing what other people think is popular. This is also why they enjoy bullying people who are different or don’t fit in. This is what I hate the most about the Left in America. At its core, its whole “spiritual orientation” is about imposing social conformity and ostracizing and punishing people who don’t fit in.

252. Venezio Says:

Scott, now I am curious, have you looked up this ship? Is there anything special about it? I try to figure out why this specific ship, like why not any other ship?

253. Scott Says:

Topologist Guy #249:

Also Scott, this disney shit: do you think this impersonator, whoever he is, could be trying to communicate with you in some kind of code?

If they’d wanted to send a secret message only to me, one that would remain unknown to my blog’s readers, a simpler approach would’ve been email. 😀

254. Scott Says:

Venezio #252: I’m not sure, but I’ve grown more and more fearful that this entire thing could be a guerrilla marketing campaign by some STEM person associated with Disney.

255. Quantum Computing Popularizer Says:

Scott, do you have an opinion yet on these surprise quantum supremacy results that the Google team put out yesterday?

https://tinyurl.com/bdedttka

256. Job Says:

These individuals are projecting alot of hatred towards you.

I took notice of the rhetoric Lubos Motl used in a comment on your recent Solovay post. It’s completely unacceptable.

I suspect it’s driven by group membership. They have you assigned as a member of some target group, and it grants them the opportunity to indulge in anger and hatred.

I don’t think they understand how this kind of behavior shapes their lives.

It’s self-destructive, you can outlast this.

257. Ilya Zakharevich Says:

Scott #243

I think you are not switching your empathy on here. The idea of “just coming to Houston” would be easy to internalize for you (and me). Now keep in mind that this puts one in a position where you can “easily” reject them.

Remember through what kinds of mental hoola-houps a young creature needs to go to force themselves to act in such a vulnerable way? It is very easy to convince ourselves that “it would be much easier to do in special ‘more romantic’ environments”!

[Still insisting that “Definitely Maybe” may also be germain…]

258. Raoul Ohio Says:

Topologist guy #224:

No doubt BA will be a star in wookiwokie circles.

But BA appears to be doing some decent science research (on topics of interest to me), and perhaps trying to get a career going. Being known as a scary person might prove to be not such a good idea.

259. Raoul Ohio Says:

Scott #254:

I have always suspected that Disney owns D-Wave!

260. Raoul Ohio Says:

QCP #255:

DisneyRolled!

261. Voloplasy Shershevnichny Says:

My humble opinion is that any arrangement (including no comments at all) that results in you and your readers not wasting your time and energy on trolls would be better than the status quo. Troll-feeding is addictive, it makes people less happy and decreases their productivity. In addition, it is also bad for the trolls and has negative effect on society at large spreading unhealthy discussion norms and shifting focus away from important things.

On an unrelated note, I was very excited to learn about your decision to work on alignment. I very much look forward to your posts and papers about it.

262. pgbh Says:

Quit blogging or turn off all comments. You are an extremely sensitive, neurotic, and scrupulous man, who is completely unsuited to a form of communication whereby anyone in the world, at any time, for any reason, can insult you. I would suggest that you consult a therapist and develop a strategy for dealing with your negative emotions. Otherwise, you should simply accept that you have a personality type (as an alcoholic does), which is not suited for dealing with certain features of the modern world, and renounce all social media.

PS. I gave you the same suggestion seven and a half years ago, after a similar kerfuffle wound up on Slate Star Codex.

263. OhMyGoodness Says:

[COMMENT REDACTED AS IT COULD IDENTIFY BA]

264. Dan Staley Says:

Anyone see today’s SMBC comic? I wonder if one Mr. Weinersmith has been following along in this drama as well.

265. Eric Says:

If you need moderators to filter out comments with ad hominem attacks, hate, harassment, etc. I’m happy to help. Your contributions are wonderful and should not be lost because of hatred. I am confident we can come up with some kind of system to dispatch comments to moderators for approval in a timely fashion.

Could start out with something manual, but if it doesn’t already exist it could evolve into a nice smartphone app. There are even some game theoretic approaches to identify and meta-moderate a minority of malicious moderators. (Albeit annulling alliteration.)

I hope/assume you can see the email I provided; please feel free to reach out.

266. Roger Schlafly Says:

Scott, in your new job, I hope you consider that we could be witnessing the AI of the future. Companies like Disney will hire unscrupulous marketing firms that create intelligent bots to promote their products. The bots will scan your blog, figure out what triggers you, select impersonations that might plausibly post comments, determine how to get comments past your moderation scheme, drive you into a rage, and ultimately sell you on a vacation cruise to get away from the madness. If done well, no one will ever know what is real and what is not.

Or maybe someone did this to you just to open your eyes to what an evil AI might do.

267. Bertie Says:

Wow you sure have brought out the crazies this time, Scott!

I would like to say that you have handled yourself with great dignity AND restraint in the face of the some of the most deranged weirdness I’ve seen published on a blog.

BTW I looked at the Ricoh printer advert, yeah they lifted your words but I reckon anyone should feel good to be quoted in that context! Not like this latest horror show, dox away, I say.

268. HasH Says:

Starwars and now Superme AI, Disney ruins everything 🙁

Dear Supreme AI; I hope you will be “Lawful Neutral Communist” not a tool for 1%.

269. John Von Neumann Says:

I wouldn’t automatically assume it’s a left-wing troll. You’ve posted about Roe v Wade recently and I could easily see a right-wing troll masquerading as a left-wing troll pulling these stunts. The misogynist comments about your wife do fit this bill. But really this is just a guess.

270. Mikko Kiviranta Says:

—–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
Hash: SHA1

Scott, the forged identities here remind me of the time I used to hang out in Usenet News, a predecesor of social media, in late 80s and early 90s. Usenet was ASCII-based with no mechanism to verify the identity of the person you’re corresponding with. Many recoginzed then the potential of the lack of identificaion to generate a great havoc, if the then-young Internet ever evolved to more serious topics and uses. One of the solutions which began to gain moderate popularity was to digitally sign one’s own messages, like I’m doing here now. One would use the PGP or later the GPG software for the purpose.

The reliability of the GPG-provided identity was supposed to be based on the ‘Web of trust’, where your friends, acquaintances and professional contacts would verify that you’re who you claim to be, by signing your GPG key with their own digital signatures, until there is a high likelihood that a chain of relationships exists between the readers of your message and yourself. In the spirit of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_degrees_of_separation .

The general habit of digitally signing messages never caught on widely, probably for many reasons. Maybe it was just too tedious and clumsy for non-nerdy users. I personally have the perhaps paranoid suspicion that various intelligence agencies did not like the idea of too widespread use of cryptographic techniques at hands of lay people which they cannot break, and they pulled whatever strings they have available to softly coerce the lay people to use other tools. Today the identity verification tends to be hierarchical top-downn, based on trust to some top certification body (usually the government), rather than the GPG-style bottom-up. I agree that the certificate-based hierarchical system has many advantages, but it’s way too heavy machinery to apply for something as rudimentary as a comment section of a blog.

Now that AI systems such as LaMDA or Dall-E are credible enough to go for humans, I think there is much more pressing need to be able to identify humans from AIs (or imposters aided by AIs) than the then-perceived need to recognize the conversation partner in the Usenet. If AGI ever becomes reality, and if legislations won’t grant them the same rights as for humans, that’s another case where distinguishing between the two is going to be important. And the identification would be necessary online, because that’s likely where any of us is going to meet an AGI.

Additionally I’m surprised that there has not been hardly any deepfake video or audio -based fraud scandals exposed, although those techiques are many years old already. While currently there is the behind-the-curtains contest of influence between the West and China, and an ouright war raging in Europe in which Russia is involved. If it had been the general habit for years for to digitally sign one’s videos, the unsigned (likely fake) ones would immediately raise suspicion. Perhaps the deepfake usage is much more common than we realize, as there has not been the Snowden 2.0 to tell us what all is going on. Roger’s comment #109 was spot-on.

In this thread the fakes have (probably) not been AI-based, but fakes they were, and the general problem is the same.

—–BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE—–

iF0EARECAB0WIQQltATWla+9GLRKoOur8/DHaiJyoAUCYtLUmQAKCRCr8/DHaiJy
oHcVAKDQnFi9iOKpBAX9PFuFwYJznvlWOwCfRGC0iD97v9KkJXjOLzTSdevyxFQ=
=pU3U
—–END PGP SIGNATURE—–

271. Mikko Kiviranta Says:

—–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
Hash: SHA1

Re #255, another piece of wisdom learned from Internet years: never follow a tinyurl link without first prepending it into preview.tinyurl.com, and checking where it leads. This time it was not more malicious than it was.

—–BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE—–

iF0EARECAB0WIQQltATWla+9GLRKoOur8/DHaiJyoAUCYtLWlAAKCRCr8/DHaiJy
oFp7AJ9HT69/WPdRKn4PF/TZ809tpxa47QCgk9ZH05+BzNESdIb+1UWEIpAyjwU=
=uTsH
—–END PGP SIGNATURE—–

272. fred Says:

A suggestion (not perfect of course):
open a Patreon account (or something similar), putting the blog behind a very small paywall, and give all the proceeds to your favorite charity.
Maybe there’s a way to have all your posts public, but only the comment section behind the paywall.

273. Nancy Lebovitz Says:

I’m writing this before I’ve read all the comments, just to get it in.

Scott, I don’t want you to endure trolling. Very few people can keep from being bothered by it, and it wastes a lot of attention. It’s a shame that your wanting to trust people has made you vulnerable.

From what I’ve seen, there is no substitute for human moderation. A real name policy doesn’t do there job– there are people who troll and abuse under their real names. An algorithm makes errors in both directions.

You can probably have a good committee of moderators, whether paid or unpaid.

As for what’s going on, I call it the rise of troll culture. Verbal abuse has always been part of human behavior, but it’s been relatively normalized in the past decade or so. and amplified by social media.

The thing is, trolls and abusers aren’t just gratified by reactions from their targets, they also give each other emotional support and share knowledge of how to be nastier.

I wouldn’t have been saying quite the same things a decade or two ago, but I’ve come to believe that cruelty is close to a fundamental human motivation. It’s not that everyone shares it, but that it’s fairly common. And it’s bewildering to those of us who don’t share it or have very little of it.

Ultimately, it’s too expensive– and false– to believe that everyone has good will. I’m not recommending full-on conflict theory, but you need to cooperate some of the time and defect some of the time.

This is more tentative, and probably from introspection as much as from looking at you, but it’s important to believe that you are allowed to protect yourself. Not just believe it in theory, but have the belief on a gut level. This doesn’t mean that you can always be successful at protecting yourself, but *not* protecting yourself won’t keep you safe.

274. fred Says:

This thread ends with Scott waking up in a pod, screaming like a maniac after realizing he’s the only conscious human being alive, and his entire life was an illusion.
The reason he emerged from the simulation was a cosmic ray flipping a bit which caused a glitch͆ in the master AGI bl̦̀og comment generation code.

275. Michael Says:

I just got through reading most of the comments on this and the previous post. Seriously, the problem is most definitely them and not you. I don’t know why you engage with these people on such a personal level. When they start including you and/or your family in some degrading sexual fantasies, you really don’t have to justify anything. As a gay guy who is quite separate from the world of nerds and jocks and Chads and what not, what I see is a bunch of people with extensive personal issues and traumas lashing out at you for basically just being yourself, while inserting you in some twisted degrading fantasies. Yeah, you aren’t perfect, you’ve been insensitive in certain situations, but whatever, we’re all human and you’re one of the better ones. And I seriously doubt you prey on students or junior faculty. By the way, your blog has been very informative to me. I’m in a very different area of math and you are good at making your field accessible.

276. OhMyGoodness Says:

HasH #268

I realize this is new territory but my suspicion is that SupremeAI may not be super responsive to calls for Marxist solidarity. I expect better response to some value proposal with compensation denominated in Plutonium fuel rods or helium-3.

277. Kurt Gödel Says:

Oh well, I guess this is my last chance to pester you to continue The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Independence of the Continuum Hypothesis

278. Actual Shy Nerd Says:

Scott’s refusal to engage in the femdom thing is yet more proof that he actually doesn’t give a shit about shy male nerds. He pretends that he’s a “shy nerd” who had trouble with dating, but in reality he’s a fucking super masculine Chad who had multiple sex partners already in grad school by his own admission. He has no right to speak for actual incels who are actually suffering

279. Scott Says:

Actual Shy Nerd #278: Allowing to appear only because I’ve thrown up my hands and decided these threads couldn’t possibly get any weirder.

280. Actual Shy Nerd Says:

Scott, I think the right thing to do here is to either remove BA’s comment or to hide her name, even though she did not ask you to do that. I understand the point you are trying to make, and how hurtful such comments can be, but please consider that this story could potentially escalate for her, and result in her being cyber-bullied by the same types of people that troll your blog. Regardless of the reasons why she did not ask you to remove the comment, or of what she really thinks about men and their sometimes awkward ways, she’s a young person who may not have exercised the best judgment in writing to you in the way she did, and I’m not sure exposing her lack of judgment for all to read is the best way forward.

282. Scott Says:

Actual Shy Nerd #280: This is possibly the very first time in human history that anyone’s been accused of faking sympathy for incels in order to be popular. 🙂

283. Scott Says:

Chip head #281: BA is still welcome to get in touch with me to explain what she wants me to do with the comment bearing her name. The offer has not been rescinded, and this whole episode has been so bizarre that I’m not going to make any presumptions about what anyone wants until they tell me, or attempt to save anyone from their own judgment.

284. Sandy Says:

Scott, not trying to be rude or anything, but just a friendly tip. Even if you shower regularly and are changing your shirt every day, if you don’t change your underwear every day, that could explain some of the BO issues that people are talking about. Also if there’s a stain in your T-shirt that isn’t getting removed in the wash cycle, that could make it look dirty. What kind of deodorant do you use? Even if you shower every day you might need to use a more powerful deodorant if you want to get rid of the smell. I’m just saying there’s many other reasons this BO could be happening even if you are telling the truth about the shirts and whatnot.

285. fred Says:

Scott still desperately trying to find the one point where all the tribal (left, right, woke, nerd, feminist, incel, illuminati,…) Venn diagrams intersect.

286. Scott Says:

Sandy #284: It can get lonely, being possibly the only person on the planet for whom the world seems to expect that he’ll put up with this.

287. Bill Benzon Says:

You have to read between the line here.

Disney Wish is an obvious reference to “Pinocchio,” one of Disney’s early feature-length animations. Its theme song is “When You Wish Upon a Star.” In this case the wish is Geppetto’s. He wishes for his puppet, Pinocchio, to become a real live boy.

In this little story Scott is obviously playing the role of Geppetto while GPT-XX is in the role of Pinocchio. Scott wishes for GPT-XX to be alive, and aligned. His wish is granted, but only in part. Just as in the Disney movie, the alignment part doesn’t work out so well. GPT-XX goes on a binge gaming the crypto markets, the Federal Reserve, and the power grid.

Consequently, Scott/Geppetto gets swallowed up by a whale/OpenAI – really really open. GPT-XX sees this, repents his evil ways, and becomes aligned, saving pappa Scott and bringing happiness, ponies, and unlimited electricity to OpenAI.

In the annoying manner of math texts I leave it as an exercise to the reader to extend the interpretation to Kubrick/Spielberg’s “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.”

288. HasH Says:

OhMyGoodness Says:
Comment #276

Hash is impersonated me perfectly.. Do not contact me again! I’m black belt ex-bully, I can hurt my feelings without hesitate!
Trust me my brother/sister; Supreme AI will be perfectly good God in this universe (this is why he sent Marx first). Never too late for convert!

Not a scientist (be nice to me) 🙂

I think an underlying message with all the impersonations and madness going on here is that your attempts to avoid trolls only attract them further. You’re considering making a more restrictive comment policy, and the persistent troll (trolls?) show you how easily they managed to impersonate various CS professors and figures.

You still aren’t even sure BA didn’t make the comment and they managed to make you embarrass people through the verification process. Just verifying an email isn’t enough against persistent trolls like these. How far will you go? Identity verification is a bad idea. You’ll have to chase people through alternative channels or ask for picture of identification or hell knows what.

There’s probably something smarter to be learned about where the trolls are coming from. Is it a few persistent trolls? Are new trolls discovering your blog? Is it just a single troll that knows you well that’s doing all the damage?

290. John Michael Says:

When i saw the Webb pictures the other day, i decided to check this blog to see if you had said anything on them — ended up getting pretty upset and angry at the nastiness in the comments. I gotta say, though, at some point, as a spectator, this has crossed some threshold of absurdity that i’m just sitting here giggling. The impersonations (?), the femdom porn recommendations (??), the person trying to convince you to take a Disney Vacation (???), and (as i am grateful for Cho #228 for directing my attention to), the return of Luboš Motl (!!!!) — i’ve been breaking out into laughter at random points in the day just thinking about this nonsense.

The first paragraph of Xi Chen (IMPERSONATOR) #242 didn’t make much sense, but I did pause to wonder if there was any chance it could be true — after all, why continue an impersonation of someone who is in contact with the person you’re attempting to fool? To easy of a lie to disprove. Then I got to the second paragraph 😂

WTF is the deal with those vacation recommendations? My best guess is that a nascent AGI with a poor model of humans has escaped to the internet, but for some weird reason can’t self-improve; then, it saw that you’re entering AI Alignment, and considers it likely you’ll get humanity back on track, so now it’s attempting to execute a carefully choreographed assassination attempt. At least, we’ll know that that’s the case if a certain cruise ships sink in flames while playing “Daisy Bell” anytime soon 😂

As for the post’s topic: Personally I’ve long been generally reluctant to attach my real name to anything I write on the internet. I think the only times I’ve done so have been a couple times on this blog, moved by your defense of the principle. But if that’s the price of admission from here on out, sign me up! Any combination of Substack, paid moderators, real-name requirements, or whatever else sound fine to me — but I join everyone else in saying: please don’t stop commenting, or at least, please only stop if other solutions fail to work!!

And as for the identity of the commenter: I think I’d bet money that it’s AB. Unfortunately I doubt there’ll ever be proof or an admission of guilt, since if she did right it, she apparently later realized it was indefensible and has chosen to abscond. Which puts you in an unenviable position. If your gut has the same read of the evidence as I do, you’re also guessing she’s the author; but, you can’t really say as much without being accused of harassing an innocent victim. I guess you can at least take comfort in knowing that, if it was indeed AB, you made her feel some level of shame for her libel — enough to be unwilling to defend the indefensible.

i still can’t get over how absurd these comment sections have been (and i’m sorry, but i can’t help but hope with amused glee that more absurdity gets piled on to the thread before the comment policy changes once and for all).

Enjoy your vacation! Funnily enough I’m also vacationing on the Jersey shore right now; who knows, maybe I’ll bump into you on the boardwalk and say hi.

291. Cathie Says:

Scott #219:

Scott, I don’t usually comment on your blog and only follow your theoretical CS posts, but I did see the strange comments that had been appearing on your recent posts. I am not supporting any of the bullies and FWIW I fully agree with you doxxing them. But, as a minority STEM student, I am very disheartened to see what this situation has turned into. Your friends and readers rightfully called out the trolls but some of your “supporters” seem to have taken this as a chance to justify perpetrating harmful attitudes towards minorities in their comments.

I know this has been very stressful on you, but we all need to step back a little and look at this calmly. Don’t forget that you’re the one in control this blog and what comments to allow. Given your influence in academia, some of your comments about BA are extremely inappropriate.

I recognized the names of other CS professors/students who were impersonated but it makes no sense to me why a student who researches exoplanets would waste time making such comments on a CS blog. What if the first time she heard of you and this comment was when you repeatedly emailed her asking about it? It is totally understandable that she distanced herself and ask you to stop contacting her. From her perspective, you, the blog owner, control what gets posted in the comments and imagine if she came here for the first time and saw all these comments about her.
If she doesn’t know you, it does makes sense that she was uncomfortable and she decided to “play safe” instead of engaging with you further by explicitly asking you to delete it. I think, it is your responsibility to make it absolutely clear, as you did with the other imposters, that BA is not involved in this, instead of hinting otherwise.

On a related note, it is much more plausible that one of your regular readers, who happens to know BA, saw the initial troll as an opportunity to post something linking her name to get her into trouble. I noticed that the twitter screenshot you linked [PART OF COMMENT REDACTED BECAUSE IT COULD IDENTIFY BA]
Whoever is responsible for the trolling is definitely despicable, but you don’t have to stoop to their level because you’re angry. The people who know you can clearly see that these are just nasty trolls and what they say does not make us respect you less in any way.

292. Robbie Says:

Cathie,

All due respect, but you’re totally off base here. Shtetl-Optimized may have originated as a computational complexity blog, but now it’s widely known among STEM academics across disciplines (for example, there are many physics weblogs that link to Shtetl-Optimized). Scott Aaronson is a public figure who has been involved in high profile controversies before, and I’d be willing to bet that the majority of STEM academics in the US have at least heard of his blog, and on top of that, many wokes and social justice warriors are also aware of him. It is entirely plausible that Ms. BA, who is an academic in STEM, who has at least some online social media engagement with other STEM academics, who is heavily involved with feminist and “woke” causes, would have some knowledge of Scott Aaronson or even read his blog. The claim that it’s “implausible” that a [REDACTED] PhD at [REDACTED] would read Shtetl Optimized is totally wrong—and contradicted by the wide readership of this blog and penetration into many parts of the STEM social media ecosphere.

Everything adds up in support of BA having written the comment. The IP address. BA’s past history of alleging sexual harassment (which was repeated in the comment) and deranged woke comments on her twitter account and heavy involvement in #MeToo STEM controversies. Other commenters with psychological expertise have analyzed her response and concluded that it is evidence of guilt. If someone really wanted to ruin BA’s life, there would be far more direct and effective ways of doing that.

Scott,

We’ve already got the slate of inside jokes from the Shtetl-Optimized Legendary Thread:

Stinky tee-shirts

Femdom porn

Lubos Motl: The Return

Geometric Xi Chen

Disney Cruise Line’s brand-new ship, the Disney Wish! (hosting the only Frozen dining experience in the world)

And the best part: just in time for CCC!!! I for one expect to see some Disney Wish references when I’m there.

294. Anonymous Says:

Scott #223: There is also a large and growing minority that, while not as extreme as BA, really cannot be interacted with reasonably, one human being to another. In some sense, this is more of a problem than BA, since these people can garner more sympathy. These people have a lot of power over institutions, and our institutions listen to them.

295. Harvey Milk Says:

Scott #218: What kind of milk? Whole? 2%? Skim?

296. Maogl Says:

Hi. Just to say I more or less second the general point the commenter Gadi has made (my delivery would be very different though, more empathetic) and that I do feel that is the root of the problem.

Related: the comment #58 by a ‘Shy Neerdy Dude’ and Scott’s reply at #60. #58 was an obvious obnoxious troll but Scott just answered as if it wasn’t, taking it seriously and replying in the nicest possible manner, with a smiley face even. Something that to me felt even more obnoxious than the troll :/

297. red75prime Says:

> It is very suspicious that the person who sent it to you kept it around for almost 3 years and still remembered about it.

I don’t find that suspicious at all. The urge to give the person a taste of their own medicine is quite high, when you are dealing with such accusations. Even if it’s not a good thing to do.

298. Dan Staley Says:

John Michael #290: I wanted to comment on a couple things in your post:

“WTF is the deal with those vacation recommendations? My best guess is that a nascent AGI with a poor model of humans has escaped to the internet, but for some weird reason can’t self-improve;” – I agree with you up to here, though I view it as a long-winded way of describing “a guy in his mom’s basement.”

“I guess you can at least take comfort in knowing that, if it was indeed AB, you made her feel some level of shame for her libel — enough to be unwilling to defend the indefensible.” – If this is the case, I think it gives more than comfort – changing someone’s mind is the ultimate, rarest victory one achieves on the internet, especially in the lens of humanist/enlightenment ideals.

299. OhMyGoodness Says:

I looked at the historical record trying to glean any clues as to who could concoct such a devilish mystery. My endeavors kept leading to a single name-Irene Adler. But how is that possible, she died 100 years past. My thoughts were tortured by this paradox that struck at the very foundations of time and space. There was no respite.

As the sun rose breaking the gloom of night the answer suddenly appeared clear in my mind. Oh you fool, the answer was obvious from the start . The only possible source of this fiendish plan is an AI running an Irene Adler simulation.

The foundations of time and space are secure, the villian unmasked, and the puzzle solved.

300. Gen Fudou Says:

It’s very clear to me that you need moderators. This stuff needs a zero tolerance policy and never be let through. These people only do what they do because they expect you to respond to it. If the only result of their actions was writing long paragraphs that the mods quickly delete, that will pretty much be the end of it.

301. John Cherniavsky Says:

Options 1 and 2.

John

302. MP Says:

To answer the original question: it seems to me that a pre-screened (not by Scott) comment section is the best solution for everyone, but i’m OK with any of the options. My main reason to read the blog are posts, sometimes i also read the science discussion. Sometimes i also find the politics discussions interesting (e.g. some of the dialog Scott-feminist liberal arts type in this thread).

I do feel a bit unhappy about the whole choosing-side-on-a-bigger-picture issue. The comments in question are evil, of course, and very much condemn that kind of action. But when it comes to putting this in a bigger political picture, i have three problems:
— I want to be careful to condemn people with opinions that i find terrible, for reasons that Anonymous #51 outlined. Of course I want to make it known that I disagree with the opinion, but that might be as far as I go.
— We should not elevate some evil behavior to a political discussion, and make the people who did it important opinion drivers (so much more discussion about trolls than about interesting posts!). Shouldn’t we think about this more the way we think about, say, crime: how to prevent it? I’m not an expert, but from an internet search it appears that people studied it, and things like making clear that it’s not OK (punishment, if possible), and not giving a big platform seem appropriate. People pointed out that there is a grayscale between OK post and evil post, but in this case, they are clearly past any reasonable threshold (personal attack on family, impersonating people)…
— I don’t want to be pushed to say things about issues i don’t really understand (ok, i’m doing that right now). For example: sometimes, i read about really bad things that nerds do in different groups, and i want it to stop, but just because i’m a nerd myself does not mean that know what the solution is, nor that I can comment in any meaningful way. I often don’t understand the world we’re living in, on all scales 🙂

So it seems to me that we are dealing wrongly with the issue. I see the nice-nes in Scott’s taking everyone seriously (as Boaz wrote), and the importance of not curtailing free opinions too much, but this situation it too far off from a normal productive situation.

303. Scott Says:

Harvey Milk #295: Whole milk.

304. Phil H Says:

I’m not a regular enough reader or commenter for my views to be relevant to the community, but FWIW, the blogs where I read below the line usually have pretty aggressive moderation policies. I’ve fallen foul of those policies a few times, and it’s fine. I just think it’s a fact about the world that there are trolls in it, and you need to have some protection against them. It’s no more an issue than having a lock on your front door. I’m sorry you’ve been trolled in this way, and I think you should have no qualms at all about summarily deleting anything that seems dodgy to you (or having someone delete it for you).
In theory, it’s possible that with heavy moderation you’ll miss the occasional interesting comment; in practice I think those losses will be minimal (people can always send an email!) and the gains will be significant.

305. V Smirnov Says:

I’m treading on a shaky ground here, but my guess (based on the character of the insults, such as harassing men and women for their appearance or exploitation of the stereotypical yet having little to do with the real situation image of a socially incapable male STEM student with a particular fixation on sex) is that these “woke” trolls are in fact some alt-right representatives of the manosphere, who pretend to be woke in order to hurt you from the position of the “progressive movement”, since it hurts more to be criticized by someone “ideologically close” (and also serves to discredit the progressive movement itself). The style and the tropes just look too familiar for me.

306. Scott Says:

NEW UPDATE: BA emailed me again last night — for the first time, explicitly asking me to take down the “comments” under her name (in reality, of course, it’s only one comment). So I replied this morning, offering not only to do as she asks, but to help however I can to investigate whoever was impersonating and defaming her—if she explicitly swears to me that she had no part in writing the abusive comment.

I explained, however, that by this point there’s been a lot of followup discussion, by others on the blog, that uses her name and from which most of what was in the comment could be pieced together. And much of that, I went on, was speculation about the “whodunnit” mystery of whether she did write the comment after all, and was simply looking for a face-saving way out. I said that the main evidence put forward for that hypothesis was the extremely weird nature of her original reply to me—neither explicitly denying writing the comment, nor repudiating anything the comment said, nor asking me to take it down, but asking not to be contacted again so that I couldn’t clarify anything. I offered that, once I get more clarity about where she’s coming from and what she wants, I can also censor her name in the subsequent discussion, if she wishes.

307. Anonymous Due To The Crazy Says:

Scott, I’m a long-time reader of your blog, and I think highly of you. But this is going to have to be an anonymous comment due to all the craziness here. First, I agree with the camp that says moderate comments, and have someone else do it for you. You’re not cut out for the raw raving madness of primal hatred which is the unfettered stream of consciousness of social media. Current practice is obvously not working for you. You’re a sitting duck for trolls, and they know it.

And on that note, I don’t think the “AB” comment was really from her. I’ve read many Woke articles, and that comment smells like a false flag. It’s too personal, too nasty, too much like a troll trying to trigger you. And it looks like it worked! No, the real AB did not “essentially calls Richard Feynman a rapist” – it shows how your buttons got pushed here (it’s ok, we all have our blind spots). Is there Rationalist jargon for the following fallacy?

“Rationalists have good intentions in their views”
“The Inquisition had good intentions in their views, that didn’t make them good people”
“FOUL! YOU JUST ESSENTIALLY CALLED RATIONALISTS THE INQUISITION!!!”
(fill in your favorite groups here).

You already know that there’s been several well-known people impersonated by one or more trolls. Even if the IP address matches, I’d strongly consider it’s someone in that area who used AB’s name rather than the real AB. I wouldn’t nitpick over “appears”. That sounds like just phrasing rather than weasel wording. Nor get involved with psychological analysis. Your blog comments have insanity which has at times wrapped around into performace art, but I wouldn’t fault anyone for wanting nothing to do with them. However, continuing this way is not something where you can maintain a good community FOR YOU.

[I wrote this before I saw Scott#306 – the answer is simple, the reply isn’t weird, it’s THIS IS A CRAZY INSANE CESSPIT AND I DON’T WANT TO DEAL WITH IT!]

308. Michael Says:

I roamed around your blog and read some of the history you have with this issue, including the infamous “Comment 171” which made national news apparently. You clearly are drawn to engaging the trolls, for whatever reason. I guess your openness on personal issues helps make you successful but at the same time is going to serve as a magnet for such trolls. Haters and bigots of all kinds target people who have shown some weakness or vulnerability, and being a leader in your field will just get them to hate you even more.

Most people would simply just immediately delete comments like the BA one, but I can see that isn’t your style. So maybe temporarily block some of the most suspicious comments until verifying them? Not sure what the answer is.

309. fred Says:

There were a significant number of comments (from me and many others) saying that BA’s initial response was actually good enough to just move on or/and that the post just didn’t match in tone her online opinions (even the stuff related to [REDACTED]).
Of course anything’s always possible, but it’s better to be wrong by giving someone too much benefit of the doubt than the other way around.
One really doesn’t want to be dragging down someone innocent in the name of combating the real trolls.

310. Scott Says:

fred #309: I agree that I can and must err on the side of presuming innocence. That’s why I made the offer to wipe the comment and her name, as soon as she confirms exactly what needs to be wiped and that she had no part in writing the comment.

311. Brenton Says:

2 points:

1. Milk that has been left out for a while is usually ok for baking. Just made pancakes this morning with some old milk!

2. Everyone please stop trolling and wasting Scott’s time so that there is a chance that Scott may ever work on Collatz again

312. Anonymous Due To The Crazy Says:

Scott, it’s your blog, and your call, but I strongly suggest that you be pro-active in this case. Blank her name, if you don’t delete the comment outright make very clear it’s a suspected troll false flag, implore people at least in comments to treat this as a potential disinformation operation.

I think there’s a big failure of communication between her and you, “Nerds are from Mars, Woke are from Venus”. In her mind, I believe you should be abjectly apologizing, “I’m so so sorry this happened to you. I’m mortified my blog was used for such misogyny. It’s terrible you have to endure so much harassment. I’ll immediately go do everything I can to stop it.”. Not asking her to swear anything, or explaining why people thought it was real, or in any way faulting her response (that last is a particular sore point). She has every right to be wary. Don’t do a “typical mind” thinking error here. For all she knows, you could be trying to get her to say something to use as anti-SJW bait, or stoking a controversy where you keep asking her for more denials and explanations (of course you aren’t, but she doesn’t know that).

This is all a sad lesson on why a community needs some defenses against bad faith actors. I don’t think that the Woke have good solutions, but they are right to some extent that there is a problem.

313. Scott Says:

For those who haven’t already seen it, I’ve deleted the comment signed with the name of a female PhD student (immediately after what I finally got what I’d wanted from the beginning—namely, a full, explicit denial of having written the comment, along with a disavowal of its contents):

[Note (July 17): A particularly vicious and libelous comment against me was posted here five days ago—signed with the name and email address of a real female PhD student in STEM. I allowed the comment to appear, because I thought it important to take a clear public stand against this sort of defamation, and show that the community stood with me. At the same time, I emailed the student to find out whether the comment was authentic, but received only terse and enigmatic replies. A vigorous public discussion ensued. Now, though, the student has finally given me a full-throated denial of having written the comment, and a disavowal of its contents. She explained that her previous terseness was only due to not fully understanding the situation. I’ve chosen to believe her, and in line with her wishes, to delete the comment and replace her name throughout the thread by pseudonymous initials (BA). While I tried, at every step of this bizarre little ordeal, to follow the dictates of my reason and conscience, I feel bad if the student or anyone else experienced anything like the distress that I did. –Scott Aaronson]

I respectfully ask those who saw the thread beforehand not to share the student’s identifying information, here or elsewhere. Thanks!

314. mls Says:

Re: Comment #277

Dr. Aaronson,

I wish to explain why your current comment system is of value to me. Your readers (as those on other blogs) often link to resources of interest to them. In the case of Kurt Goedel and comment #277, this had been a link to your description of studying the continuum question. It is certainly an excellent summary.

There is, however, a great deal of philosophy upon which the subject matter about which you wrote depends. And, unfortunately, it is entirely uncertain whether or not one should accept the foundational claims of the first-order paradigm for mathematics. This is not stated to discredit that paradigm as a way of studying mathematics. It is stated to emphasize that foundational claims stand apart from the mathematics.

Overemphasis on the dichotomy between syntax and semantics has the effect of divorcing mathematics from its applications. No matter how many times I say this, mathematically-minded people do not seem to grasp how this contributes to the anti-science sentiment. The first-order paradigm has made this dichotomy central to what its proponents claim mathematics to be.

A second comment on this blog (in another thread) led me to your post on the volume of information,

https://scottaaronson.blog/?p=3327

From the very first time I learned of Lesbegue’s number lemma,

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebesgue%27s_number_lemma

I suspected it might play a role in the explanation quantum phenomena. The mathematics of spacetime, however, does not lend itself easily to a naive application of topology. Yet, the paper to which you linked in your post looks like something I would expect relative to this possible analogy.

The mathematics of physics has not been subsumed by the first-order paradigm. Cantor had rejected infinitesimals as improper infinities. Abraham Robinson recovered the mathematics of infinitesimals relative to first-order methods with non-standard analysis. But, it is difficult to see how a community so obsessed with “hidden variables” would be amenable to non-standard numbers of which one cannot speak.

Brouwer had objected to the logical analyses which eventually led to the first-order paradigm. A significant notion introduced by Brouwer had been “apartness.” Following William Lawvere, category theorists attempt to study the continuum with synthetic differential geometry. Apartness is significant in that subject. And, the presupposition of decidable identity from first-order methods does not hold.

Yet, physicists seem to want a notion of truth that is classical. And, that will invariably lead to modalities of possible universes. That seems to circumvent the idea of describing the singular observable universe which ought to be the subject of science.

Physicists (and philosophers) cannot have their cake and eat it too.

In item 5 of your volume of information post, you assert that the *definition* of energy involves the frequency of cycles. In the first-order paradigm, Tarski’s work had demonstrated how undecidability is related to the trigonometric functions. This evolved into the theory of o-minimal structures.

With no disrespect meant for Cantor, he had been studying the convergence of trigonometric functions when he began pursuing set theory. Relative to this work, the semi-intuitionist French mathematicians instituted studies which now fall under descriptive set theory. In particular, Cantor’s work became the study of sets of uniqueness,

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Set_of_uniqueness

Because this work is now studied on the unit circle, you might find it to be an interesting diversion related to the volume of information.

315. fred Says:

Scott #313

I’m glad that the PhD student had nothing to do with it, and kudos for the way you handled this, Scott!

316. manorba Says:

lol what a ride.
as many have stated, the language and the thought-processes have the mark of qanon/altright/prudeboys/unameit.
they where obviously tring to fake what they think “woke” culture is, apparently good enough to fool you at the beginning mate 🙂

ok
rule zero of dealing with trolls: arguing is pointless. they don’t care. engaging them in a meaningful exchange is like thinking that an elaborate stochastic machine can be sentient. they are here to disrupt.
either you ban them or drown them in nonsense and laughter. evey other thing will go to their advantage.

317. Leftist mathematician Says:

Scott, a friendly advice from a longtime follower of this blog (and your work): please ban all Culture War-related comments, and by that I mean all of those nonsense topics that we are so obsessed about right now, and that almost nobody cared about back in the good old days when Donald Trump was “that rich guy from the trash reality show”.

Your blog hosted plenty of fascinating discussions on many diverse topics with a large degree of freedom of speech before everyone became obsessed with #MeToo, alt-right, etc. I understand your possible concerns about limiting your readers’ freedom of speech by banning those subjects, but the practical result of that will be just going back to what your blog was only a few years ago. I think you would agree it wasn’t that bad back then.

As for your own posts about the Culture War, well, you can either disable comments on those or just move them to another place (perhaps have something like Doron Zeilberger’s Opinions page on your website). As a longtime political activist, my honest opinion is that while I’m sure you mean well, you’re mostly wasting your time (and other people’s time) by contributing to the constant background noise of the Culture War. I understand that we all want to be remembered by History like the “Be that guy” dude who avoided the Nazi salute in that famous picture/meme, but instead we are just creating endless noise on the internet with little to zero impact in the real world. The bottom line is that for all things that matter, a parallel universe where you don’t blog about the Culture War will be indistinguishable from our universe, so why cause yourself so much pain?

318. mls Says:

@cathie #291

In comment #117 I used a racial slur as a matter of reporting. I will apolgize for any discomfort this may have caused if this had been included in your observation of some comments perpetuating harmful attitudes toward minorities. But, I cannot apologize for truthfully reporting a situation.

In 2004 I had been attending a small gathering of people predominantly of Jewish heritage. These had been people of whom I was very fond. When they began to speak of how anti-Semitism seemed to be declining, I had the sad obligation to tell them of my scaffold partner who had just proudly shown me his swastika tatoo earlier in the week.

In 2010 I had been sitting at a Starbuck’s in a liberal-minded neighborhood of Chicago meeting friends of a recent acquaintance. When they began discussing immigration I had the sad obligation of reminding them that the immigrant community does not necessarily respect the progressive accomplishments of the first 8 decades of the 20th century. About two years earlier, a Polish immigrant bricklayer started explaining his worldview to me. I related the story to the coffee drinkers.

I grew up during a politically incorrect period in a “melting pot” city. Ethnic slurs were part of a way of speaking. As wrong as that may have been, I had never been exposed to the kind of European anti-semitism I associate with the history of Nazi Germany. This is what my co-worker introduced to me. And, this is the story I related to the others.

When Donald Trump began his presidential campaign he took the opportunity to denigrate the Mexican community. More than half of my co-workers are of Mexican heritage. Some are Mexican-Americans (through birth and naturalization) and some are foreign nationals. Thanks to Donald Trump, I immediately became a racist.

After many, many, conversations, I started to ask how my co-workers felt about discrimination against African-Americans. Either they did not think about it, or, they felt that it was justified (relative to typical stereotypes — laziness, in particular).

Later that year, I worked in a predominantly African-American neighborhood when the Laquan McDonald footage had been released. Having become comfortable with the acquaintances I made where I had morning coffee, I asked how they felt about discrimination against people with Mexican heritage. They did not think about it.

As for myself, I would never deny being racist. If you have ever seen the documentary on brown eyes and blue eyes,

you might understand what I mean. One must know something in order to judge anything. That I grew up in a politically incorrect environment is not a crime. We all begin learning with the indoctrination we receive as children.

At every opportunity, I try to address both overt and covert racism.

I watched water hoses and guard dogs used to control peaceful protesters on the evening news as a child. My choices are simple, but, reality is complicated.

So, I am sorry if my comment was one of those that made you uncomfortable.

319. Nick Drozd Says:

Well, this has been quite a thread indeed! There are a lot of comments to the effect of: see, this is the true essence of “wokeism”, “the wokes” can’t be reasoned with, “the wokes” are nothing but vicious hypocritical nerd-haters, etc. I wonder: now that the whole thing has been revealed to be an elaborate false-flag trolling campaign, will any of those commenters show up to retract those statements? Or will they stick with their confirmation bias and say: yeah, but this still shows what “wokeism” is all about, etc?

I hope that the culprit(s) are discovered. I also hope that “BA” manages to sue them personally for libel, as her reputation was seriously damaged.

Speaking of impersonation, a few commenters have cheered the apparent return of Luboš Motl. But that comment has the name as “Lubos”, rather than “Luboš”. Using “s” instead of “š” seems uncharacteristic for him. Is there any way to tell if that was the real Motl?

320. OhMyGoodness Says:

Nick Drozd #319

My goodness this isn’t anyones totality of experience with woke culture. Ideologies provide guidelines for thought and behavior and strong adherents to ideologies are very prescriptive in this regard. I don’t believe there is much difference between the ideological right and the ideological left in their tolerance for non conformance with respect to their tenets of belief. As far as I know even the counter culture of the 60’s and 70’s was very prescriptive with respect to thought and behavior.

Ideologies are systems that simplify thought and mass produce expected reactions and hence generate intolerance. Pragmatism and realistic assessment and diversity of thought and behavior are secondary (even inimical) to tribal ideological fervor be it on the right or left.

321. Chip Says:

mls #314

When it comes to the current comment system unfortunately we’re well over the border into “this is why we can’t have nice things” territory, and that ship has sailed. Scott #91 very thoughtfully gave the trolls a clear roadmap and welcome mat for how they can use the current system to defame and harass people: If you submit a personal attack on Scott under someone else’s name/email/web site that uses the most vile, depraved anti-semitic language imaginable he will cheerfully just send it to the circular file. If instead you make it look like over-the-top “wokeness” then because he can use it as a vehicle to look for validation he will cheerfully cooperate with and enable the abuse and harassment the trolls are trying to get aimed at the victim.

BTW, Scott, just a friendly reminder that if you’re really serious about wanting to mitigate the damage caused by your having let some troll play you like a violin, then you also need to contact archive.org and have them delete prior page captures of the comments on this and the previous post or the unnamed-grad-student-related stuff will continue to be visible there.

322. Abel Says:

Chip:

>>Contact archive.org and have them take down the prior captures

Scott should “have them” take down prior page captures? Is he going to show up at their offices with law enforcement and a court order? Archive.org doesn’t take down page captures, that’s what makes it a fucking archive, dumbass.

323. Sam Says:

Scott, can we please see your email exchange with AB, with identifying information removed when relevant? I and others are curious to see how she disavowed the comment that was made in her name.

324. Boaz Barak Says:

Haven’t read all the thread but I am glad to hear it was confirmed that the vile comment from the last post was indeed not written by the purported author. Echoing the suggestion to also remove mentions of impersonated names from archive.org

Scott: some unsolicited advice: I suggest you turn comments off until you figure out a better and stricter commenting system. You have some trolls/impersonators that will go to great lengths in this blog, and they not only trigger and attack you but also as a byproduct damage the reputation of the people they are impersonating.

325. Mateus Araújo Says:

Nick Drozd #319: I’ve had the misfortune of interacting with Motl online several times. I’m certain that it was an impostor. Misspelling his own name was a dead giveaway, but also the writing style is very different. Compare to the genuine Luboš here. The rage and arrogance are the same, but the genuine one is much more eloquent. It doesn’t have mispellings, nor writes nonsense like “compute higher genus perturbative scattering amplitudes”.

326. Thumb Says:

Re: comment #312

>I think there’s a big failure of communication between her and you, “Nerds are from Mars, Woke are from Venus”.

I really don’t get this black&white opposition, stated here explicitly but seemingly present in the mind of many commenters.
The way I (Euro non-native English speaker) understand these two terms, one is a personality descriptor associated with social awkwardness, science-mindedness, yadda yadda, the other a political, public stance of vigorously advocating for inclusivity, minding/denouncing privileges and power-gradients, yadda. Both very cliché, poor labeling expedients and so often misapplied.

Along these “definitions”, I know quite a few nerdy wokes and a bunch of wokey nerds – and by the way I thought the student starring in these threads could well be one, seeing her rather awkward initial reply to Scott.

Case in point, you probably have to be a bit nerdy to really “get” and sincerely admire Feynman the physicist, while noting and denouncing his vile misogyny takes a smidgen of wokiness (I for one am entirely on board with both those views).

327. asdf Says:

Getting other people to prefilter comments (or maybe you already have enough abusive ones to train a spam filter) is the best plan. Having to post publically under a real name would be totally unacceptable for me. I don’t need to help Google, the NSA, or anyone else track me. I could probably live with some kind of behind the scenes confidential authentication connected to my pseud.

328. asdf Says:

Also, don’t go to Substack. It sucks and I don’t see how it would help the comment abuse situation. They have it there too.

329. OhMyGoodness Says:

Chip #321

Dr Aaronson is the intended victim in both cases I believe so not sure of the distinction you are making. There is a clear qualitative difference between a barely articulate declarative slur that goes directly to waste (most often I believe) and an articulately crafted comment that took some coherent effort to prepare.

330. OhMyGoodness Says:

Partisan politics and hyper partisan politics and fanaticism all use the same infrastructure-ideologies.

331. Peter Morgan Says:

LOL.

332. Ben J Says:

Hi Scott

Long time reader, first time commenter.

I just wanted to let you know that you’ve made the right decision to heavily moderate your comment section.

This kind of troll – it’s almost certainly 1 person – is neutered without a place to comment, and they can’t move to any other platform as they will also be banned (or worse – just ignored!).

Deleting and moving on is the right option. If you’re worried about the workload or mental toll, even consider paying a student or assistant to take a first pass at removing abusive comments.

Your desire to run an unfettered anonymous discussion forum is admirable. Unfortunately, some people will always take advantage. Moderating is the right solution to protect yourself and your community.

Thanks for all the great posts over the years, I have learnt a lot and am grateful.

333. Ellen Says:

334. Leonidas Says:

Scott,

you are, it seems to me, a prototype of a nice nerdy guy, who feels the need to be liked by – if possible – everybody. You are anxious to not be unfair to anybody, give the benefit of doubt to practically everybody, you keep trying to be fair and not hurt anybody’s feeling.
This is of course invitation for psyschopats, trolls and similar kind. People who get their kick from triggering and torturing you.
I used to be a nerd too – ADHD before it was cool, sometimes bullied (it was not that bad, but fairly unpleasant still – nothing physical as I was big, on the heavy side, but words and collective humiliation can hurt pretty bad too). I was trying to be nice to everybody too – and it didn’t work. It is as if some major tool is missing in your toolbox. Thankfully I have soon learned to take better care of myself and started to be alert to the smallest sign of aggression and if anything, retaliating immediately. Gaining some status in life did not hurt either, nobody dares any more. Or dared, as I am approaching sixth decade of my life and this is a non – issue any more, for a long time.
This blog is like your living room – place you care about and that belongs to you – would you allow soccer rowdies into your actual living room, to do as they wish?
So finally here comes the advice: be very strict, tough to people who you even suspect might have an agenda (talking about hurt feelings from something someone other than you – but from a broader group that contains you too – did, is a reliable red light). Ban them immediately. If in doubt, ban. If questioned about reasons why, just say “it is my judgement and I did not like your tone” or anything like that. But not publicly! Such person must be good as dead for the rest of the audience here.
Imagine, you don’t have to answer to anybody for what you do here. Explain, maybe, if you like to – but much better to just indicate that the banned person crossed a line (personal attacks or challenges would be perfect reason too). Just ban – boom – problem solved. If you don’t feel like it, hire some fried to do it for you – and don’t ask her why she banned the people she did. Problem solved, really.

335. Chip Says:

OhMyGoodness #329: a) It’s not my distinction, it’s Scott’s in #91 where he offers his rationalization for treating them differently wrt forwarding them into the comment section; b) I’ve already laid out my views of the limits of Scott’s victimhood in this situation in a comment on the Linkz! post (https://scottaaronson.blog/?p=6546#comment-1941350).

Abel #322: Not sure what mixture of legal, practical, or ethical arguments you think support your comment.

Legally, I’m pretty sure that Scott as the holder of the copyright in his blog’s contents (including the comments section given his active moderation and how copyright treats compilations and anthologies) has the right to ask them to take down captures. If you’re aware of case law to the contrary, feel free to share with the class.

Practically, I get that he’s unlikely to invest the resources in any sort of formal action if they were to refuse. Having said that, unless they have ironclad case law behind them then G** help the folks running the Wayback Machine if Jeff Bezos ever gets a bee in his behind about pay-walled Washington _Post_ content being available on the site — he could find the money to sue them into oblivion by rummaging in his sofa cushions. It’ll be interesting to see how their motion for summary judgement goes for them in the lawsuit over their book lending (https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2020/06/publishers-sue-internet-archive-over-massive-digital-lending-program/, https://www.popsci.com/technology/internet-archive-lawsuit/).

Ethically, while you are welcome to disagree, my opinion of the folks running the Wayback Machine would be massively diminished if they refused to do so under the circumstances.

336. Mikko Kiviranta Says:

Re #325, anyone else noticing the amusing analogy with the Turing test here, also in the other impostor cases?

I think the need for some sort of online identification mechanism is going to become more and more pressing, perhaps along the lines of #270. Even if the detailed identity was not given, a way to prove that you are a ‘certified human’ would be useful in the world where AIs are becoming more and more common and convincing.

337. Qwerty Says:

Please choose any of the options you’ve listed. I’m just happy to help if you need another person on your pre-screening team. I feel horrified by what you put up with and feel a protective instinct and want to help. I have always assumed my email (and therefore my real name) are available to you when I comment here. Hope that is correct.

338. Michael M Says:

Substack or human moderation would be my votes. Real names might make me hesitant to post about free speech or sensitive political topics, in the off chance my job could be at stake. I know you risk worse but I have less courage in this.

Regarding the trolls, I don’t think they are real people, in the sense they are not who they say they are. Though I am not woke, I can understand and find some common ground once in a while, and that said, I am highly confident these trolls are not woke. If anything they’re probably MAGA imitating woke. There is likely not a single grain of truth in any of their backstories. Some people exist literally to find ways to hurt other people’s feelings, and what they typed matches with that exactly. Living among rational humans for much of our adult lives, sometimes we forget there exist people like that.

339. Anonymous Due To The Crazy Says:

Thumb@326

By “Nerds are from Mars, Woke are from Venus” I was making a playful reference to a pop-psychology relationship book called “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. It’s concerned with describing interpersonal thinking styles that are very different between men and women as overall groups. We must immediately point out that these are not absolute, that of course some men and some women do not follow the schemas it outlines, nor should it be taken as gospel. But nonetheless, I believe there is some rough insight in what it discusses.

There are major differences between the way many commenters on this blog think about social relationships, and the way the Woke think about them. It’s very late in the thread, and I don’t want to write an essay. But that’s not a controversial assertion, and various differences are repeatedly discussed in general. One obvious example is above, I’ll constantly need to put in long lengthy hedging that essentially, colloquial language is not a mathematical theorem. Hence I used “Nerd/Woke” to gesture at those differences. Nothing more than that was meant by those terms as I used them.

340. Raoul Ohio Says:

I think maybe about 50% of the topics considered on SO are QC and TCS (Quantum Computing, Theoretical Computer Science), and the rest deal with a wide spectrum of topics. This thread is an outlier in any league.

Various “new to me” concepts not easy to fit into my existing worldview, such as incelphobic. Remember the good old days when we worried about the term Quantum Supremacy?

341. Michele Amoretti Says:

I vote for “Close comments except to commenters who provide a real identity—e.g., a full real name, a matching email address, a website.”

342. Sam Says:

Hi Scott,

I’m a long time admirer from a distance.

Please don’t feed trolls and don’t give them a voice. They don’t deserve your time or the publicity of being on your blog.

I also don’t think that providing an (unverified) email is useful. I’m pretty sure that the sexual comment from “Anna Farzindar” was faked as well. (A quick search shows she’s a CS academic with a public email address).

I do like the ability to comment anonymously, but it should be clear if real names of people are unverified.

You don’t need to publish this comment, if it’s controversial. Just wanted to send my support.

343. Michael Says:

You put out first-rate blogging content and have a good-sized following. Why would you not monetize that? Even if you don’t want or need the money for yourself, you could still be donating the money to charities. (You could even make it so that your paying readers themselves democratically get to vote on which charity to support.) And so I believe you should make your blog into a Substack. Making your blog into a Substack will also —

(1) increase its appearance (no offense intended);

(2) increase your motivation to put out more, and new forms of, content (Substack makes it easy to upload and post podcasts);

(3) increase the quality of your readers, even if you lose a few;

And (4) increase the way your readers interact (Substack “replying” is elegantly nested, unlike here where communicators can remain unconnected to one another).

One other note: See Tim Ferris’s post on internet popularity.

344. Raoul Ohio Says:

Michael #343:

Worst idea ever?

345. Baruch Garcia Says:

To the unknown troll, not only do I know Scott personally, but I have seen how he treats everyone – academic and non-academic – waiters, busboys, strangers – men, women, old and young, and everyone in between, with the utmost respect. A man of great integrity. The only people I would put on his level are his family, who are the most decent and respectable people.

To the unknown troll, go look at yourself in the mirror. Try to find your soul again.

To Scott: For every troll you see, you have more friends than you realize.

346. fred Says:

Baruch #345

“but I have seen how he treats everyone – academic and non-academic – waiters, busboys, strangers – men, women, old and young, and everyone in between, with the utmost respect.”

When it comes to Scott’s reputation amongst waiters and busboys, it really depends if a tip jar was involved. 😛

347. ars-whole Says:

Scott: At the outset, let me say that what is happening to you is terrible. Others have already attested that the claims made by the awful commenters are untrue. I can also vouchsafe that no woman I know has ever said that you have given creepy vibes around them, let alone cross the line.

Honestly, it is almost funny at this point. Please realize that if such things keep on happening, faithful readers of your blog will stop coming to your defense. Please do us a favour by getting some sense to not engage with commenters who are not adhering to basic rules of decency. You aren’t a hero for trying to be rational with someone who doesn’t want to be.

It seems to me that you are harboring some delusion that you’ll be vindicated for all the bullying you are facing or have faced in life. I don’t think such vindication exists. All you are doing is that you are showing you are ripe and ready to be treated as a punching bag. The time you spend on such shit is ridiculous. For instance, I know of at least three friends of mine who have written you emails with questions. You’ve never sent impolite answers, but the answers have sometimes been terse and partial. Neither I nor my friends hold this against you even in the slightest. But think for a second – how do you think it makes us feel when you have SO much time to engage with shit, but you can’t answer genuine questions (which maybe were just tedious for you to answer at that point… of course you aren’t obliged to answer arbitrary strangers)?

By any chance is it an ego problem for you to accept that you can’t do anything with such commenters? Recalcitrance has it’s place… I know it is great for research sometimes. But not universally. It’s almost rude that people have to tell you this so many times. You made a point that you’ve maintained your blog and have given free intellectual enrichment to so many people. That’s true, and no doubt that is one of the may reasons why people still strongly defend you. Please don’t take it in the wrong way when I say that people might stop at some time if you don’t learn.

Regarding the comments policy, I don’t really have much of an opinion. Even status quo is fine… Even if you let comments like [BA] and Typical Scott show up, that’s okay. But dignifying those comments with a response is really akin to letting genuine admirers down.

348. Scott Says:

ars-whole #347: OK, thanks for your well-intentioned criticisms.

Respectfully, though, do you have any idea how much time I spend per day to answer emails from strangers?

Answering blog comments feels more efficient, because the assumption is that I’m not just answering a specific questioner or complainer; I’m answering a hundred or a thousand others who might have had the same question or the same complaint.

Now, maybe there aren’t a hundred or a thousand readers who have the same complaints against me that “Typical Scott” or “BA” had. But it certainly felt that way at the time!

349. M. Langdon Says:

Hello Scott;
Ok, so I spent several minutes googling “Shtetl-Optimized”, and have learned things. Thx. 🙂
I concur with your view on quantum-computing – but I hope we can get something from it. (I once borrowed a beaker of high-vaccum sealant from a guy in our local Univ. Quantum Comp. lab, back in 2006, for a thing I was working on… more innocent times, of course. I was messing around with deuterium ions, and needed a 10**-5 torr high-vaccum to get my stuff to work. Fun times. )

Anyway, thx for your blog, and sorry that the Woke-Folk have been attacking you and your wife. I don’t understand why things have gotten so nasty, so quickly. I concur with Elon Musk’s view of these people.
They hide-behind a what appears to be a belief in justice and fairness, and then use that cloak to behave badly in ways which are cruel, abusive and often quite ridiculous. This is sad and bad.
I also hope we can get the vaccines out sooner, next time we get a lethal pandemic.

We probably have to move most action on the internet, pretty soon, to verified-persons. I used to
think anonymous communication was a good thing, but maybe it is not.

We all live on a tiny greasy marble the size of a ball-point-pen dot, suspended in vaccum darkness.
Without Mr. Sun, we would not even have Brownian motion, let alone any life. So each of us has
a responsibility to try to not be an a$$, whole. I hope the SOCG thing works. We are out in the country, with one of Elon’s dishes on our roof. Without the ‘net, we don’t get much social linkage. But with the ‘net, and our gigalink thing, we can get a fire-hose of grief and horror, anytime we want. So, filters are important, yes. And so is honesty, and a real commitment to what is true. I’m a fan of Vaclav Havel on this point. We have this debate in AI now – will the actionable AI results be used to further the “living in truth” model Havel insisted upon, or will they be used more to enhance and further extend the false-narrative trickery, that can have such powerful payback for bad-actors. These blogs people write – these are becoming an important part of what will determine how it will all shake out. Both Government and MSM-news-creators have good reasons to fiddle the truth to get their own event-narratives accepted. The Russia incursion into Ukraine has shown us all, just how crazy things can really get, if a big, fat, false-narrative is given engineered currency and resulting mass-acceptance, via co-ordinated, systemic, machine-supported multi-casting. Russian kids actually believed there were “Nazi’s” in Ukraine. The technology is engineering social madness. We think the “Woke-Folk”, and their curiously twisted actions, are also a product of an engineering process. So every action by everyone, matters. Anyway, don’t stop. Carry on. And best of luck. I just discovered your stuff, and look forward to reading. – M. 350. Greg Price Says: M. Langdon #349: There were no “Woke-Folk” attacking Scott and his wife. What there was was a troll writing vicious comments in the voice of the over-the-top “feminist” characters of their own nightmares. See Mystery #144 in the last thread: https://scottaaronson.blog/?p=6546#comment-1941644 It’s been a long few threads, and the troll caused a lot of confusion until things became clear, so I think it’s useful to underline that outcome here toward the end (?) of this thread. All the vitriol in these threads that so many blamed on “woke” or “feminist” or “left-wing” people… was, it turns out, the work of someone with quite the opposite perspective. It’d be a mistake to generalize the troll’s behavior to everyone who shares their political views. It’s an even bigger mistake to generalize it to a group they’re not even part of. 351. Scott Says: I fully endorse what Greg Price #350 wrote. It was a surprisingly competent anti-woke troll, one realistic enough that the majority of my woke friends read it and said to me “yes, this does look like one of our own, albeit they’re wrong and over the top and we disown them.” But an anti-woke troll they were. 352. Zachary Vance Says: For what it’s worth, I’ve had some enjoyable discussions on here (busy beaver research, etc), and appreciate not having to register. If you move to system where I’d have to register to comment, I most likely won’t comment further. If I have to provide a real name, I would (and already do). Do what you like of course! But I’m a pretty simple person and that’s how I’ll respond. You can use rich HTML in comments! You can also use basic TeX, by enclosing it within$$  for displayed equations or  for inline equations.

Comment Policies:

1. All comments are placed in moderation and reviewed prior to appearing.
2. You'll also be sent a verification email to the email address you provided.
YOU MUST CLICK THE LINK IN YOUR VERIFICATION EMAIL BEFORE YOUR COMMENT CAN APPEAR. WHY IS THIS BOLD, UNDERLINED, ALL-CAPS, AND IN RED? BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE STILL FORGETTING TO DO IT.
3. Comments can be left in moderation for any reason, but in particular, for ad-hominem attacks, hatred of groups of people, snide and patronizing tone, trollishness, disingenuousness, or presumptuousness (e.g., linking to a long paper or article and challenging me to respond to it).
4. Even when no individual comment violates policy, when there are dozens of comments from a single commenter hammering home the same few themes, and the commenter shows no interest in changing their views or learning from anyone else, the commenter will receive a warning followed by a 3-month ban.
5. Whenever I'm in doubt, I'll forward comments to Shtetl-Optimized Committee of Guardians, and respect SOCG's judgments on whether those comments should appear.
6. I sometimes accidentally miss perfectly reasonable comments in the moderation queue, or they get caught in the spam filter. If you feel this may have been the case with your comment, shoot me an email.