• Thin skin – my two cents

    Austin has been carrying the load on this topic, but I want to give you my two cents.

    One reason a comment does get trashed – and I do this once in a while – is because it ignores previous answers. Let’s take an example: Someone in the media makes an argument about the quality of the health care system based on survival rates. I write a detailed argument (nay, a series of them), on why this is problematic. I don’t expect this will change the world, but I expect that readers of the blog will at least consider the points I make.

    Later, when discussing quality, a commenter uses the old survival rate argument to dismiss any data on our poor showing. I point them, in a polite response, to my previous discussions on survival rates versus mortality rates. The commenter ignores me.

    This happens over and over again. Each time I post on quality, the commenter says the same thing about survival rates. (S)he never engages my arguments or data. (S)he keeps repeating the same initial argument. (S)he dismisses anything I say, calls me an ideologue, sometimes insults my intelligence, and calls on others to do the same because – obviously – SURVIVAL RATES.

    We run this blog as a dialog. I’m more than willing to engage your solid arguments. So I beg this commenter to read the former posts and answer my points. If they can be refuted, I swear I’ll change my mind.

    That’s how debate works. You make an argument. I counter it. You counter my new argument. We learn, so that we stop repeating talking points and try to move the ball forward. What doesn’t happen in a debate is that you ignore my argument and repeat your first statement. Over and over and over again. That forces me to waste my time repeating myself. We all lose. That commenter is not trying to advance our understanding. (S)he is trying to halt progress.

    Sorry, but you can’t do that here. Feel free to start your own blog.

    So, yeah, by the tenth time a commenter has posted the same argument over and over again, never acknowledging my first rebuttal or engaging in any thoughtful growth at all, I start to censor the posts. You had your chance. I let you say your piece many, many times. You’re not saying anything new. You’re trolling.

    From our comments policy:

    Related, a high volume of comments from the same individual (which amounts to the same thing as fewer, longer comments) slows down moderation…

    This is an evidence-based blog, so we strongly encourage citations to support any claims that are not obviously true. Administrators may not approve comments from individuals who post suspect assertions without credible evidence. (Credible evidence is not a link to someone else making the same unsubstantiated assertion.

    Individuals who submit comments that cannot be approved for the reasons given above may find subsequent comments blocked as well, independent of content. Submitting the same comment multiple times could lead to revocation of comment privileges as well.

    If you don’t like that, so be it. But if I make the effort to try and engage the world and it’s arguments, I expect you to do the same. We set a high bar here. If you don’t like it, that’s ok; you can go read something else.


    • I’ve heard it referred to as the “bar room argument”. You’re sitting at a bar and someone says something simplistic and the conversation moves on.

      Then someone else walks into the bar and says that same damn thing again, dragging the conversation back into covered terrain.

      The problem is, there’s ALWAYS someone new walking into the bar and saying the same damn thing.

      That’s why I was a big fan of PopSci when they said they were shutting down their comments threads. http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-09/why-were-shutting-our-comments

      It’s also a bit unfortunate, because when people are OPEN to being shown new information, reviewing those old posts and getting that kind of feedback is great.

      You and Austin have referred me to several posts and think I have a (tiny) bit of a better understanding because of it (due mostly to my inability to understand, not yours to explain it).

      Anyway – as long as we’re throwing two cents in, there’s mine.

      Tally ho.

      • And I’m tolerant of it when it’s a new person. But when it’s the same person over and over and over again, then I start to trash the comments.

        This is rare, mind you.

    • Look, not everyone is a healthcare policy wonk and you need some serious chops to understand the terms and numbers, especially when Austin is throwing them out (at least I find that google is my friend there).

      The internet doesn’t make everyone equal, but it sometimes appears that way. Experts on the internet still know more than you.

      I’m often amazed at the amount of effort some trolls put in.

    • Very reluctantly I throw in my two cents.

      From what Aaron says in this present blog. Aaron makes an argument as to what some posters might be doing. To put it simply and perhaps not in the best fashion, Aaron bases his arguments on one criteria and the other uses another criteria. Both are accepted in the literature. Aaron apparently replies positively about his criteria and the other likely does the same.

      It seems that this might cause offense to Aaron who might then censor the poster. Aaron has repeated his arguments many times so one asks, why can’t the poster do the same and leave it up to the reader to determine which idea they prefer? It sounds ( I really don’t know ) like Aaron is using censorship to have the last word. I’ll bet both arguments have merit and neither argument qualifies for a trolling title where both arguments pass the high bar test. In the end it seems the truth is a balance, but not necessarily an average. That is where the meat of the discussion might lie and that should be embraced.

      I don’t know why you don’t simply ask the poster his rationale and leave it at that. I can’t draw any firm conclusions from this post.

      • Your interpretation is not quite right. It’s more like Aaron presents evidence in support of an interpretation. Someone else, call her X, presents different evidence with a different interpretation. Aaron then says, “OK, I get what you’ve said. I’ve read that work. But here are studies A, B, and C that suggest there are problems with it.” So far so good.

        But then, X does not take on board A, B, and C and make evidence-based arguments as to why they might be problematic in some way and therefore not the refutation of X’s original view that Aaron claims. Instead of doing that, X just keeps saying, “But a lot of people believe what I said and there are studies that support it, as I’ve already cited.” Already X is in trouble, unless she changes her style.

        Aaron then points out that this is not advancing the argument, as he’s already addressed those studies with A, B, and C. X thinks that repeating the same argument with the same old studies means the argument is balanced. But it isn’t. X is still a step behind and repeating the same points won’t even the score. If she keeps it up, it only wears Aaron down, not with evidence and logic, but, frankly, with trolling.

        It’s pointless, rude, intolerable, and unreasonable. Because it is indistinguishable from trolling (and rude and overly argumentative and repetitive), it’s grounds for blocking the repetitious comments. Note that the idea has already been expressed, so it isn’t censoring any new ideas. Finally, if X keeps it up — issue after issue, post after post — we follow the policy and block all X’s comments.

        Don’t like it? Go elsewhere.

      • “I’ll bet both arguments have merit”

        That’s often not the case.

        “I don’t know why you don’t simply ask the poster his rationale and leave it at that”

        ‘Cause invariably when he does exactly that, they simply repeat (often almost verbatim) the exact same evidence-free claim.

    • I haven’t seen the type of discussion you describe. I have seen other debates where evidence from different sides was presented. I have heard Aaron get steamed and I have heard him make many intelligent and thoughtful observations. I can’t answer for the other side because I am not sure of who the poster is. By the way, just because an idea has already been expressed, preventing that idea from being used in argument is censorship even though it may not be a new idea to the list.

      But, unless the name is released my interpretation is a hypothetical. If I understand the rest of your explanation I can only say that it is a matter of perspective as to who is repeating what since lack of acceptance of another’s interpretation of proof is not repetition. The repetition you seem to be talking about is as if one proof has been proven better than the other and thus the other is unyielding. If that condition of solid proof wasn’t met then both were unyielding in their positions which is neither good nor bad.

      The fact is that I learned a lot from all sides on many of the debates on the list. I could only conclude that there were a huge number of difficulties to prove in an absolute sense one case over the other. Some of the debates have been fantastic and I commend all sides of the argument. I only wish that even more detail had been brought to the surface no matter how strongly the participants held onto their views.

      Now I’d like to get back to healthcare issues.

      • Sol, this is clearly wrong:

        “The repetition you seem to be talking about is as if one proof has been proven better than the other and thus the other is unyielding. If that condition of solid proof wasn’t met then both were unyielding in their positions which is neither good nor bad.”

        This misuse of “proof” reminds me of those just discovering philosophy. In science and policy, “proof” is a concept to stay away from. A/A are certainly not talking about proof, but process and commitment to evidence.

        The troll is showing a lack of commitment to evidence by not attempting to seriously address evidence that it is wrong. A/A did look at the troll’s evidence, and found reasons to disagree. The troll is not looking at new evidence presented by A/A, but disregarding it.

        It doesn’t matter if A/A’s new information is better (let alone a “proof”). What matters is that the troll isn’t seriously engaging their data and reasoning.

        Troll: a study says health care costs would go down if X occurs.
        TIE: That study didn’t account for these other cases where X occurred but costs didn’t go down, and it doesn’t account for the fact that in the USA, X already occurs far more than other nations but it has far higher costs. So, how do you respond?
        Troll: You’re wrong, because that study I mentioned says health care costs would go down if X occurs.

        • Jonathan, you might agree with Austin and he might applaud you, but has Austin released the name of the poster so one can review what poster actually said? No. What we are hearing is a one sided story that appears a bit self serving. I don’t conclude that the poster was right and the moderators wrong. How could anyone draw a conclusion without knowing both sides.

          You called the poster a troll. Now try and provide one quote from the poster that would lead you to that conclusion. You can’t. You say “The troll is showing a lack of commitment to evidence by not attempting to seriously address evidence that it is wrong.” How can you say that the so-called troll shows a lack of commitment when you don’t know what the so called troll said or didn’t say. You have no justification in calling the poster a troll. Your opinion is based upon the characterization of another.

          The attacks on the poster by A/A are worse than just censorship because A/A project an idea of what the poster said, but they censor the poster from saying anything or even rebutting their implications.

          I did not want to pursue this line of discussion, but the unfairness of the accusations against a person prevented (censored) from responding forced the above reply. I’m done and disgusted.

    • Fairness? A/A play the part of judge, jury and prosecutor
      while the poster is gagged. It doesn’t sound quite fair to me. I
      don’t know anymore than anyone else that is not a moderator so I
      gave the benefit of the doubt to A/A figuring that if bad language
      wasn’t used then the individual might have been a bit repetitive
      and/or didn’t have adequate evidence. Whether or not that is a good
      basis for censorship I don’t know. But with all the heat in the
      blog and types of statements like you “nailed it” to a person
      without primary knowledge I am beginning to think the treatment of
      the poster was purely ideological and vindictive. However, the
      owner of a private list has the right to be as unfair as they wish
      and censor any ideas they do not wish to see. It may not be
      intellectually correct, but their individual freedom to act in
      their own interest on their own property must be protected. The
      one’s that are most upsetting are those that wish to crucify a
      person unknown to them for acts they know nothing about. This means
      they lack a mind of their own and can be led around like sheep. It
      is dangerous for a democratic republic to have too many citizens
      inflicted with such a lack of personal responsibility.