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I miss killfiles


December 22 2011

Usenet and killfiles

Once upon a time, before the world wide web, the primary way people communicated was via a technology called Usenet, which, while far from perfect, had the ability to do something that often isn't possible on today's web discussion boards: It had killfiles.

What killfiles did was make it possible to never see the posts of an obnoxious person again; the computer program used to read comments would filter out any posts from obnoxious people.

Facebook has killfiles

Thankfully, Facebook has similar functionality. If someone is acting annoying or obnoxious, it is possible to block that user so you will never have to read their drivel again. Just yesterday, there was a thread about global warming which an obnoxious global warming denier was hijacking, going on and on about his pet theory and completely ignoring our refutations of his arguments.

So, I killfiled him. Very simple; I went to his user page blocked the user. Instantly, it was no longer necessary for me to read this person's drivel on this thread, making said thread far more pleasant to read. doesn't have killfiles

It would be nice if other sites had similar functionality. For example, every time the Huffington Post posts an article about Latino human rights, such as one where women are shackled during childbirth for the crime of being born in the wrong country, all of the bigots come out of the woodwork and go on and on about how these people do not deserve basic human rights because they are illegal and how they are stealing tax money and blah blah blah.

Since any argument these trolls make has long since been refuted years ago, there is no point in arguing with them. The best way to handle these kinds of people is to have a filter hide their postings and turn ones back on them.

Unfortunately, the Huffington post does not appear to have a handy way of letting people do this.

My college roommate

Before I left college to work in the dot-com industry, I had a very bigoted roommate. He was a very angry and bitter person; when I took his picture, he flipped off the camera for the pose. He would go on and on about how non-whites never accomplished anything in society. I finally put him to task and called him a bigot to his face. We stopped talking after that.

When I later on accidentally left the door locked and had to knock on the door to get in, he jumped out and practically assaulted me. He was not a very pleasant person to be around.

Bigots use sockpuppets

After the dot-com bubble popped, I went back to college, majoring in linguistics. One of my classes was with Gerald McMenamin, the expert who recently got national press in his role showing that someone may have forged email supposedly from Facebook's founder. One thing we did in his class was look at a number of rejected letters to the editor to see if one person was using multiple names to make his ideas appear to have more support.

The content of the letters was the same kind of bigoted nonsense that now gets published in the comments section of web discussion boards. I remember all of us being really offended by the comments, and using McMenamin's methods to demonstrate that there were only one or two bigots using multiple "sockpuppet" names to make their bigoted views appear more popular than they really were.

I'm sure it's the same with these anonymous identities on web discussion boards: A very small number of people with a large number of sockpuppet accounts.

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