Comment o’ the Week & an Ever So Gentle Reminder!

Another crrrrrazy week has come to an end, dear skeptical friends! A lot has happened here on Skepchick — some lulz, some spats, a closed thread — but the single most important event was this: I totally added a rad new plug-in that lets you reply to comments quickly and easily! Just click the little arrow by the post number. I know, totally rad.

Seriously, though, commenters. You know we love you to pieces, but perhaps it’s a good time to review the Code of Conduct I posted not long ago. There are a lot of n00bs, and a lot more commenting than in the past, so I understand how things can get a bit out of hand. I’ll post the relevant bit of the Code below, and then I’ll get on to the business at hand: Comment o’ the Week!

  1. We don’t all agree about everything. Not only will you the reader sometimes disagree with a Skepchick writer, but quite often we writers disagree amongst ourselves. I never wanted a bunch of writers who had the same outlook and experience as me — I wanted people who can think critically, and who make me think about things in a different way.
  2. We disagree in constructive ways. When a fellow writer posts something that makes me think, ‘WTF?’, I try to figure out how she got to that conclusion. I often find that the rationale behind her thinking is sounder than I first thought. A recent example is when Sam posted in support of the FLDS parents in Texas who had their children removed. At first I thought he was nuts, but when I examined the evidence and his thought process, I came to see that the point wasn’t as outrageous as I had thought. I didn’t get angry because he had a different outlook than me, even though it’s a hot-button issue. A lot of that has to do with the fact that Sam is my friend, which is why I’d like you to
  3. Think of us like your friends. Even though we sometimes disagree, I hope we make you laugh and think and occasionally party. I want you to think of your fellow commenters as friends, too — since you’re all on Skepchick, you probably all share a similar mode of thinking, a similar frustration about Oprah, and maybe a similar sense of humor. So get along and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Of course, you should still
  4. Tell us when we’re wrong. Giving us the benefit of the doubt doesn’t mean letting us unknowingly get facts wrong or slip up on fallacious reasoning. We’re human, and that’s how we learn.

I think that about covers it. Mostly, I just want you guys to not be jerks, because I want everyone here to have fun. Except on the day that Kevin Trudeau registers to post, at which point I want you all to become the jerkiest jerks that ever, um, jerked. Okay, on to the Comment o’ the Week!

Okay, on to the Comment o’ the Week! (I know I already said that, but that was months ago.)

Thanks again to those of you who let us know your favorite posts by using the initialism “COTW.” That helps a lot, especially now that we can have literally a thousand comments a week. I carefully examined each nomination, including additional nominations from the Skepchicks themselves, and have decided to award this prestigious prize to (DRUMROLL) Gerg!

GergNo Gravatar // Aug 29, 2008 at 1:04 pm

I understand your skepticism about Dr Cornelius Cockin’s work with Dr Angus Butt. Even if it is one of his more controversial collaborations, you cannot discount the fine work Dr. Cockin has done with others:
Dr. Dampen Vag
Dr. Hans Cleevage
Dr. Sheeraz Handjb
Dr. Lucy Mouthe

When my fiancee had two back surgeries in one year virtually all those techniques helped greatly in her recovery. Then again if you’re not interested in any of those couplings of medical professionals, you might have to remind your husband of the work of Dr. Frank-Lee Justgoawayandhaveawank.

Gerg may not know how to spell his name (I’m guessing) but he’s got a great Gravatar and knows how to work the funny.

To those of you who will try to say that that comment was posted last week, you should know that the start and end of each week is determined solely by myself and is in accordance with the grander method of time measurement known as Rebecca Time (RT). All of Skepchick is run based on RT, and so my fellow writers know that when I say “1pm,” I mean “1pm RT.” And, if I happen to show up at what you think is 1:15pm, it does not mean that I am late, it only means that your watch is out of synch with Rebecca Time. Scientists at MIT are currently working on developing a machine that keeps perfect Rebecca Time. It shall be called the Atomic Rawk.

Anyway, congrats to Gerg! Your prize is a watch that automatically synchs to the Atomic Rawk, expected to be available starting in late 2009. RT.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Thank you all. This now validates my whole existence. I feel as giddy as a school boy.

    FYI: Gerg does know how to spell his name but in nursery school Gerg didn’t. Then in later years he made the mistake of relating that to a friend and the name stuck. Calling him “miJ” didn’t catch on as well.

  2. Might as well jump on the reference bandwagon

    What does Oprah have to do with the COTW? From the “internets” rumors I’ve heard, she’s not that interested in Dr. Cockin’s work anyway.

  3. Well, the research team noticed a strong correlation between ice cream and Twitter, so they decided to simply combine the two for space-saving purposes.

  4. @Gerg:

    Congrats, Gerg! I’m so proud of you!

    At the next meet-up, I’ll buy you a beer.

    Since you don’t drink beer, I’ll also kindly consume it for you.

    I’m the bestest Skepchick ever, aren’t I?

  5. @Elyse:
    Sooo…um.. wait. There’s a beer… and it’s for me… but you have it… and… um… What?

    You have melted my brain with your superior Skepchik-type logic.

  6. It shall be called the Atomic Rawk

    I have had an unfortunate accident involving my laptop screen and some cashews.

    Thanks a lot, Rebecca

    And, yes, civility is our friend. She is, Precious.

  7. @Rystefn:
    Yeah, maybe it was a mistake to share the story. It’s a hell of a lot better nickname than some of the hazing names I was given in Boy Scouts. They didn’t even know I wasn’t a true believer!

  8. In my experience, everyone ends up with a nickname of some variety or another, anything that lands you “Gerg” instead of “Dicknose” is a good choice.

  9. My high school nickname was “Officer Josh”, because this one kid in my Russian History class decided one day that I had “cop hair”, whatever that means.

    Also, there was this one kid who called me “Satan”. I can’t even remember why that started now, but at some point he insisted that it was Spanish for “Josh”. Which he was clearly just making up as an excuse to call me “Satan”.

  10. My nickname in prison was bruiser becuse I knocked a guy out one time and left a huge bruise on his forehead.

  11. Also, there was this one kid who called me “Satan”.

    That’s an interesting coincidence… there was a group of kids at my high school that called me Lucifer. I’m pretty sure I know precisely why that was, though… Openly stating that Lucifer is the only sympathetic character in the entirety of the Old Testament can do things like that.

  12. Gabrielbrawley was in prison, pass it on.

    Rys: I think it may have been something similar in my case, but I’m not sure. I was mostly still a believer in school, though I did go through a brief “angry atheist” phase which coincided rather suspiciously with my most awkward stage of puberty… But that was mostly over the summer, when I didn’t have much contact with most of my usual school folk, and I don’t think that had anything to do with it in the end.

    There was, on the other hand, that phase I went through where I was really fascinated by Ivan IV and Stalin. That’s probably a more likely origin for the “Satan” thing, through a general association with evil guys.

  13. Yeah, well I am always telling stories about my life. I seem to be really interested in myself but I am also constanly failing to be clear in my stories. Several times I have told a story about my prison time and people have thought I was a prisoner not an employee.

  14. Wow. So, like, stating repeatedly that you want to see another person tortured to death (and apparently meaning it) is okay, but using the word “jackass” in a limerick is not.

    Got it. I’ll follow that rule from here on out, ‘becca. Thanks for clarifying.

  15. sethmanapio, you posted those limericks after I explicitly posted that there were to be no more insults on that thread. (Specifically: “continue the conversations without insults.“) I didn’t say the previous posts were okay, in fact I clearly stated they were NOT okay. Following my post, everyone kept it polite until you, and that’s why you got called out.

    On a side note, I think you’re a great contributor to the blog and I know you’re better than that, so I hope we can all stop the bickering.

  16. On a side note, I think you’re a great contributor to the blog and I know you’re better than that,


    Actually, I’m not better than that, and the only person you called out by name in that thread was me.

    Let me remind you of what was said to me:

    As far as I’m concerned, you’re a subhuman abomination. The world would be a better place without you in it.

    Go die in a fucking fire

    When I say that I consider you an inhuman abomination, I am not using hyperbole. When I say the world as whole would be a better place without you in it, I’m not merely speaking out rage. You, seth, are the absolute worst thing any human being could possibly become, and wish like no other time in my life that I was a religious person, so I could comfort myself with the knowledge that such depths of evil would punished in some Hell.

    I mean this in the most literal sense: I wish you were dead.

    By all reports, there are quite a lot of painful ways that [dying] can happen, and if look back, you’ll see that those are precisely the kind I wish upon you.

    Do I really think that ridding the world of such a vile creature as yourself outweighs some lost happiness and some emotional trauma? Yes. I do.

    ll I’m saying is that, on a personal level, I would derive true happiness from knowing that you suffered a great deal and then stopped breathing forever and that I honestly believe the world would be a better place without you in it.

    and my response was:

    This jackass seems utterly cross
    I must admit that I’m at quite a loss
    I’m not writing for him
    but for my skeptical kin
    whether he reads it, I don’t give a rat’s ass

    I’m pretty sure I was being about as good as I get. I mean, its not like I even used a strongly worded insult outside of an attempt at humor.

    You might be wondering why I’m being such a dick about this. Simply put: someone owes me an apology. Either the host needs to apologize on behalf of their welcomed, coddled, and favored guest, or the guest needs to apologize themselves. I’m not normally thin skinned, but as you can see from the above quotes, which are only a small selection of what was said, this was more than your average flame war. And while I admit my behavior wasn’t perfect, I will also say that my lyrical approach to this ugly, poorly moderated situation was commented on thusly:

    You guys have taken a nasty tiff and turned it into something beautiful . This is great, please continue.

    That would be right before you shut down the thread.

  17. Gabrielbrawley, I used to have a friend who worked at the Federal Pen in San Diego. His father always said: “He’s still in prison, but they let him come home for dinner.”

  18. @sethmanapio: “Actually, I’m not better than that”

    As you’ve more than proven. How pathetic.

    I’m not your mother, you’re not ten (I hope), I don’t care who started it, and I don’t care who apologizes. You both acted like assbags, Rystefn for his obviously out of line comments and you for continuing to bait Rystefn and posting insults immediately after I asked everyone not to.

    There’s only one rule on this blog, and it’s don’t piss me off. If I post to a comment thread asking for a halt to insults, then it should be a fairly simple job to do that.

    In the same vein, any further bitching on this thread will be deleted without comment.

  19. Rebecca said: “In the same vein, any further bitching on this thread will be deleted without comment.”

    I’ve started and run many a bbs and other online community. And so I’m well aware of the challenges faced by anyone who does so. It’s not easy is it?

    Indeed, one of the biggest challenges in maintaining any semblance of real control, within the maintenance of civil discourse without arbitrary censorship, is determining what kind of censorius actions can be taken without altogether curtailing free and fair expression of ideas and therefore negating the whole purpose of the place? Difficult set of judgements indeed.

    In looking for an open minded, rational, and thoughtful place to share questions, ideas, and opinions about the wide world and all those who sail it, I do sincerely hope I haven’t found the wrong port to set my net.

    As for my own online communities, I eventually gave up starting and running such places because too many people had too many ideas about what was “free and fair expression.”

    Invariably some folks felt that anything goes because, after all, they knew themselves to be nothing more than joyful and excited loud mouths who meant no real harm, even if they tended to cross lines of civil discourse.

    And of course others felt that any small slight whatsoever was grounds for a spontaneous hostile divorce.

    Anyway, I will allow for some time to see what the real tone of this place is. Overall I find it to be a breath of fresh intellectual air, and hope it remains such. But this thread does give me some trepidatious shiver-me-timberings.

    Rebecca, I do hope that at the very least you mean that only something more substantial than mere bitching will result in a dreaded deletion?

    Is this fine place in reality just another overly sensitive oligarchy, or worse, autocracy? To slip into my vernacular, Please tell me it ain’t so darlin?

    I mean, heaven’s above (with all its ironic and satirical attachments), a deletion is akin to an excommunication, or worse, on a blog or other online community. It’s so darn hurtful and disinformative, and only leads to confusion, resentment, and hostility.

  20. Rystefn said that filth? Wow… I’m disappointed.

    Now, I don’t like sethmanapio all that much, at least from some of the things I’ve read on his blog, but the guy’s got a humour. Duck’s back — water rolling off. It’s commendable. I would have lost my friggen mind if someone spoke to me the way Rystefn spoke to Seth. And no apologies?

    This is global human relations in a microcosm. It’s not like Seth did anything personally to Rystefn. It was a clear-cut case of “I don’t like what you stand for, so I want you dead.” *bang* War.

    I question whether it is appropriate to allow someone as willing to stoop to that level to continue commenting on this website without an unreserved apology.

    Those are my humble 2 cents. With respect.

  21. I’ve noticed that even the skepchicks have been a bit bitey lately. I’ve got curly question. They say that women who share living quarters for an extended time experience this weird synchronized period phenomenon. What about when a bunch of chicks blog on the same website for an extended time? :p

  22. Jesus fucking christ. are we no better than fundamentalist hatemongers? Are we not men? If you cut us do we not bleed? If you wrong us do we not revenge? Oh wait that isn’t what I was going for.

  23. Um, just a wee point of clarification … or perhaps I mean specificity .. or something altogether different, but in that vein.

    Anyway, my previous post, the yonder blast up above, that-a-way ^, was not meant to be in anyway disrespectful, condescending, or hateful.

    It was, and I hope still is, a sincere, query-cum-ponder-cum- … something-or-other replete with pleasant and harmless overtones implicitly endowed with hope, and fervourous pleasantries, not to mention joyous expressions of timid wishes for acceptance.

    /there, says self to self; I think that’s got it.

  24. Gabe is currently quite inebriated, by his own admission. A not entirely uncommon occurrence among the commenters around here, though we mostly don’t try to type in such a state.

    I find it somewhat interesting that we have teetotalers and lushes aplenty, but few enough who fall into neither camp. Ah well, as they say: moderation is mediocrity.

  25. rystefn,
    yes you are right.
    i’m sorry about that last one, i’m typing slower now.
    Rystefn, it seems that a lot of us are drinkers. Do we drink more than the population as a whole?

  26. Rystefn and anyone else who reades this. Please don’t call me Gabe. The spelling is correct and it is a common shortening but it makes me feel like a little kid with a lolly pop. If Gabriel seems like it is pretentious G is okay or even fuck you you pretentious jerk. Man I hope to meet a lot of you face to face some day. I’m really trying to proofread these the drunker I get, I have to type so slow.

  27. Sorry for the shortening. Didn’t mean to offend. I tend to habitually shorten people’s online handles for some reason. I’ll try to remember to avoid that one in the future.

    If we drink more than the population as whole why do we drink so mych?

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but in my case, it’s a combination of mass, metabolism, and experience.

  28. Nah, I’m not offended really, I know that is what a lot, many, most, due it just makes me feel like a kid. I’d be offended if you told me to go pray to my god, I am trying not to be thin skinded. I am able to drink everyone ive ever met undre the table but i’be neber been sure if it was all my freak size. But what I’m wonder is do we drink because the humans we share this beautiful globe with are gullible and we are disappointed or
    I know that I had a pint
    I’m sorry I’ve lost it.
    Please skip this post.

  29. What Rys said. I drink fast, and always have. Also, I tend to go for strong stuff. So I’ve built up a Hell of a tolerance, which means I need to drink a lot to even get a buzz.

  30. Gabrielbrawley, dear chap, you have now reached the quaintly cute stage of puffistretorianism.

    So, compose yourself. Do not apologise. You have not “lost it”. You are nothing less, nor more, than a pleasant human being who has imbibed and enjoyed those imbibitions…. Hey, I know there is no such word, but what the hey, eh?

  31. @anyvainlegend:

    I’ve noticed that even the skepchicks have been a bit bitey lately. I’ve got curly question. They say that women who share living quarters for an extended time experience this weird synchronized period phenomenon. What about when a bunch of chicks blog on the same website for an extended time? :p

    No, I think most of us were already bitey before we go together on the site. There’s just been an influx of readers and more discussion than before, so it’s come out more.

    Plus, you say “bitey,” I say, “fiesty in a totally hot way.”

  32. @SicPreFix: Yes, this is a bit of an autocracy, I’m afraid. It’s my site and I’m sick of every thread here turning hateful and rude, and if commenters cannot follow the very simplest of rules then I’m not sorry to see them never come back.

    In the most recent case, I’m incredibly disappointed that two commenters could be so extraordinarily short-sighted. Had Rystefn never posted anything so vile, had sethmanpio forwarded me that post when it happened, or had everyone stopped the fighting when I asked, the thread would not have been shut down.

    I’m so disappointed in everyone involved that I hardly know how to respond. Is this the price we pay for encouraging discussion with the A.I.s? Do I have to have every comment go to moderation before being posted? Or do I take a page from Gawker and just execute people who don’t know how to behave?

  33. I’m sorry I wasn’t more strict with shutting down the thread myself after I spanked Ryst for starting down the path of evil. If anyone else started slinging insults before that and I missed it (I admit, when the comment threads get long, I only skim), take this as a retroactive spanking.

    Really, sometimes the comments make me want to quit this blog, and I can’t imagine how many potential readers get scared away by the rudeness.

  34. If we drink more than the population as whole why do we drink so mych?

    As I tell students of mine that ask if I drink, “I only drink to forget about you.” That usually shuts up the little punks.

  35. Rebecca, I can’t say I blame you at all. I hope you are able to both find a way to maintain your presence, to moderate where necessary without breaking any toes when you step on them (as you must), and continue to positively encourage calm and civil behaviour.

    As I mentioned elsewhere, I’ve started or otherwise been involved in the operations of a number of online communities. It’s a tough job. Even in the most level headed and intellectual places there’s always some handful of folks who just can’t seem to follow civil discourse without getting into occasional overly emotional and terribly hurtful flamish posting.

    I’ve written several wee (honest, very wee!) essays over the years on the challenges of online communication. One of many issues that very, very few people really understand is that without body language cues, tone of voice cues, and so on, text communication is fraught with potholes, traps, and dangerous leaky lurking bogs.

    Another really important issue in online communications is that of speed and and how temporary this all is. What that leads to is everyone trying get their comments online as fast as they can because they fear, quite rightly, that if they wait too long, ponder too deeply, edit too carefully, cross all the i’s dot all the tees ( ;) ) they will no longer be current.

    And it’s true too, which is a problem that is hard to overcome.

    In that regard I think BBS’s are sometimes a little better for online communities. There is often more topic specification, and the potential for better organization.

    I think, in the long run, it is not possible to completely avoid the problems of overhot tempers and ill-spoken, even downright evil posts being posted from time to time, unless you bring in restrictive censorship. And that of course instantly cancels out the purpose and legitimacy of any free speech online community.

    The first online community I started, which is called CoFR — I can’t even remember now what that stands for? I think it stands for Crusty old Fossil Rockers, or something equally inane. Anyway, I eventually had to leave it after about three or four years. It had been largely, though not entirely, my creation.

    As a free thinking intellectual Canadian it had been of prime, fundamental importance to me to have the place be entirely free speech: no censorship allowed. To that end I regularly posted short essays on the meaning of free speech, the responsibilities inherent in that freedom, the challenges and difficulties of online text communication, etc. etc. etc.

    Anyway, by the time I left I had had many of my posts censored or deleted, and I had been raged at because I was seen as an evil liberal left wing free speech nutbar who posted mean-worded speeches using too many polysylabic words because I wanted to alienate everyone there and make them all feel small, and so on, and so on, and so on.

    What I’m saying is that the CoFR community had been more or less taken over by very conservative right-wing folks who had instituted word checkers that would even remove such harmless words as damn, tit, and piss. It became an intolerably restrictive community, and saddened me deeply.

    CoFR is still running strong with over 1000 members. I’ve been told it’s mellowed out, but I must admit I don’t care to find out.

    After that I immediately began a new community I called The Sanctuary. It was invite only. I ran it as a full blown autocracy. I thought that would ensure peaceful interaction, intellectual exploration, and all sorts of wonderful things. Well, two of the folks I invited to join simply could not deal with each other in a civil way. Before I knew it The Sanctuary devolved, in a matter of only days, into little more than a full blown flame war. Broke my heart. I left online communities altogether for nearly two years.

    I eventually ended up at a pleasant place called CGA. It’s been nice, but I am beginning to move away from there, and into more intellectually grounded places like this.

    So, the moral of my wee (Wee? Are you braindead Sic?!? It’s 20,000 bloody words long!!!). Anyway, the moral of my tale is that an open online community cannot avoid anger rising. We all just have to be as tolerant as we can, and as respectfully as possible inform those who go outside the bounds of civl discourse to please take a break, count to one million, and come back when you feel less irrational.

  36. I have noticed a change in tone on Skepchick lately (*sometimes*!) where people can be quick to defensiveness or choose their words in a way that inflames a defensive response. Maybe this has been going on for a while and I just didn’t notice it before, but it seems like a lot of this started after the “troll” incident from the 482-comment post from a few weeks ago. Perhaps the “troll” incident has put us all on the defensive a little bit more than before. As much as a senseless “troll” deserves to be called out, I feel like that thread might have contributed to a sense of entitlement to post here and to insult people who have somewhat far-leaning views. I don’t know though, maybe that’s not it.

    Anyway, what really bothers me is that some posters in the “libertarian” thread were trying to moderate a bit and posted very polite replies and queries to the discussion and got accused of “ranting” by those that were contributing to the unwelcome environment in the first place. That highly suggests to me that people’s posts are being put through a filter that assumes aggressiveness where there is none and then the reply is a “how dare you?!” sounding answer.

    That’s not very inviting for new people to chime in or for regulars to post again in the future. If anyone is owed an apology, it’s the people who were too off-putted to bother posting a reply to that thread or who might not feel welcome to post here at all now.

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