January 06, 2009

Looking Like a N00b

It's always a little strange when I'm out in the blogosphere and run into someone who really ought to know better but persists in acting like the n00biest of n00bs. You know, someone with their own blog. Someone who runs around under their own (full, easily Googled) name, making bold assertions about contentious subjects.

Someone who still doesn't understand that you don't get to have things both ways. For example:

  • If you use a theory to support argument, and someone goes to the trouble of finding a critique of the theory, you don't get to say, "Nah, I don't want to read it right now. I don't really want to talk about the theory."
  • If you want to talk about the biology behind a social phenomenon, you don't get to complain when people talk about all the social layers one has to dig through before one can even begin to think one has hit biology.
  • If you want to base your objections to someone's statement on your personal opinion, you don't get to object when your opinions become a topic of conversation.
  • If you call women the "weaker sex," you don't get to complain that they're calling you names or that (irony of ironies) they're too mean for you.

Okay, the usual caveat about rules applies. The blogosphere is a freewheeling, anarchic place. Subject to the whims of the blog administrator, you can do any of these things. You do have choices--but they have consequences.

What you can't do if you insist on breaking rules is expect anyone to think you're anything but a dishonest troll. Dishonest because you're not following the rules you tried to set up for the conversation. Troll because you tried to insist the conversation only happen the way you wanted it to.

Now the rest of these rules only apply under the assumption that you don't want to be called a n00b or a troll.

  • Don't assume the blog owner is on your side. Comments thanking you for adding to the conversation are not the same thing as an endorsement of your position. Opposition keeps discussion going.
  • Don't retreat to your own blog to announce that you've brought your toys home with you. This only emphasizes that you were losing.
  • Don't try to carry on the conversation by email, where you think no one else can see how badly you're losing. I am now in possession of a whine that outshines anything you've put into the public eye, and you're trusting my ethics and the blog owner's (which you complain about in the email) to keep it private. Think about this.
  • Don't complain that comments you made on a public blog were quoted later on the same blog. Public is public. If you want to clarify, do it in public.
  • If you're going to send me an email that says you feel personally violated, don't include a snippet of a private email from the blog owner to you. Private is private.
  • If you're going to send it anyway, certainly don't make it a snippet that makes it clear that you've been suggesting he should help you somehow because I'm a meanie. I will call you a wuss. Wuss.
  • When I tell you I won't post your email but you should because you may not like how I characterize it, listen. It's not a threat. It's not intimidation. It's just basic internet education.

Kind of like this post.


JLK said...

You rock, Stephi Z!

(Can I call you Stephi Z? It's got a nifty ring to it).

Peggy K said...

I especially like the "Shut up bitch, I wasn't talking about that" form of argument. Persuasive and classy!

Anonymous said...


Perfect, except I think the second "Wuss" in the second to last bullet point should be in italics.

Hey, we should start calling her "Stepheeezzzz" or something. New nickname.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Okay, let's knock off all this nickname talk right now. There's one person who's gotten away with calling me Stephie, and that's because he was hopeless. I described him once as the kind of person who, if you bit his hand off, would try to pat you on the head with the stump.

One person was enough.


Aside from that, JLK, thank you. :)

Yeah, Peggy, it just makes you want to bat your eyelashes at him and beg him to share his timeless wisdom, doesn't it?

Greg, agreed on the fix, and I also added a link I'd missed. And thanks.

Silver Fox said...

Some blog writers don't consider email sent to them to be *necessarily* confidential, and actually publish obnoxious drivel sent their way. Not that you should *necessarily* do that!

Definitely some circular reasoning in those comments. Well, I mean, if the word "reasoning" can be used at all.

Juniper Shoemaker said...

I read those threads and they frustrated me. I love how people think we know EVERYTHING about the function of sexual dimorphism. And if the troll *really* wanted a discussion, he'd have courteously introduced himself and then hazarded cautious questions instead of sweeping, unreliable assertions.

As usual, Stephanie, an elegant post.

Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHAH! You did smack that dumbfuck upside the head!!!!

Philip H. said...

Wait, there are rules here? Like blogs are part of civilized discourse? Nah, it can't be - this is just a place for people with no real skills or the ability to hold a crowd in a speech. Real people with real ideas never come here to actually debate them . . . .

Ok, I'm going to go get that crow bar and pry my tongue out of my cheek . . . . .

Stephanie Zvan said...

Silver Fox, I won't say I didn't consider posting parts of the email, but that was just the annoyance speaking. I'd have to have a very compelling reason to do it, and this wasn't close.

Thanks, Juniper. My favorite part is the way people just keep repeating the same arguments that have been argued against previously. No changes to address anyone's objections, just "we all know" when it's blatantly obvious not everyone agrees.

Thanks, CPP.

I know, Phil. It's almost as strange a thought as the idea that I might be a civilizing influence. Now that's weird.

Anonymous said...

Phil is, of course, 80 percent or correct.

On the email thing: This is a tricky issue. I think if you are not explicit up front with a specific email address just published on your blog, then you can't do it. So if I say "My email address.. " then give my U email address .. "and if you send me an email I can print it on the blog if I want" that is not good enough, because everyone on the planet can find my U email address without ever looking at my blog.

It has to be an email address that is ONLY published or available as embedded in the statement on the blog saying that it is fair game.

Now, that all assumes that there is an automatic privacy with any email one receives. That may not be true.

Also, this particular email was originally cc'ed to three people (myself included) and that makes it slightly tricker, potentially.

Anonymous said...

Awesome, Z! Can we call you Z if we can't call you Stephie? His comments made me want to hit my head against walls. SO glad you took him on.

Anonymous said...

Don't trolls normally have kinda norse names like Olaf, or Knut...

I think this one was a bit of a Knut.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Greg, it was also complicated further by the utter cluelessness required to send it at all. It's like the impulse to protect young animals.

Sci, that is a nickname I can live with. If you call me that next weekend, though, I can't promise I'll have any idea who you're talking about.

Eddie, that was lovely. Slightly painful, but lovely.

Silver Fox said...

Z, (yeah, I like that!), I think Greg's right about the email thing, it's tricky. I have seen (a few) people post in their sidebar that all emails will be considered public and can be posted if the blog author wants to; maybe that's considered some kind of protection, in part, against getting creepy or threatening or otherwise weird emails.

I've had a couple emails I thought were interesting, but I could probably post about the topics without ruining any kind of implied or assumed confidentiality. And then there was one - I wasn't sure if it was creepy or not...

Anonymous said...

And then there was one - I wasn't sure if it was creepy or not...

OK, OK, I get the hint. I'll stop sending those!

Silver Fox said...

That's good! :D

Silver Fox said...

Well - do I mean "that's a good one" OR "that's good you'll stop sending them"? Such an unclear message (mine).

Anonymous said...

The only crime of that special someone is that he did not rise to the compelling but irrational feminist frenzy. His "retreat" was a very responsible debunking. And just because a reader fails to understand school statistics after repeated lessons, does not make the commenter a troll. It is unfortunate that you are so sure that your opponent was "losing" in that exchange.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Sara, refusing to discuss any of the arguments put forward is not winning an argument, although I understand why you would like to think so. Nor is it debunking to selectively quote an article when (a) you refuse to note that the biases of the source have already been discussed, (b) it's already been pointed out that the article itself doesn't support your point as well as the quote would suggest, and (c) you characterize the quote as study results when it not only didn't make it into the study report, but also isn't supported by the results of the study.

See, unlike Bjorn, some of us actually read the study in question to find out what those statistics were before basing any opinion on them. Very irrational of me, I know, but I just can't help myself when I get into one of those frenzies.