SXSWi: When Communities Attack

When Communities Attack
Presenter from
15:30 CST

A session on the bad behaviors that happen in online communities.

Web 2.0 – it’s coming to your town, your parents town, and it’s not always nice.

Anonymity does enable certain bad behaviors. Someone says something nasty and a hundred people say “yeah”

Just like the playground, accusing someone of bad behavior. People trying to get opponents banned.

Number of people talking to themselves is phenomenal. Same person creates 50 accounts and comments to create credibility.

Small groups of very abusive people follow each other from site to site to fight.

What can you do?
- You can take it down – some news wikis LA, Washington felt they needed to shut it down
- Free speech vs. harboring hate & personal attacks
- you can take down a blog, but not the blogosphere – you’re not fixing anything by leaving
- you get taken down by the traffice

Abdicate: like MySpace, “hey man, it’s not our problem”
- Facebook lawyers have said they have societal responsibility to keep things in order
- hard to put on moderation later, do it at the start

Managing an moderating is probably the most responsible thing to do




meta-moderators – a group of people who are invested in the site and not invested in the arguments themselves


captchas – help people from screwing with you

profanity filter

heat language analysis – looks at the entire post to see if something is full of hate or reasonable; you can get around profanity filters


recent activity queue (Wikipedia does this well, look at the stream of new edits to keep tabs on bad things arising)

per post/user moderation

IP/domain moderation

The Ni-Chan Paradox – interesting social affect of the infrastructure
- Regisration keeps out good posters – don’t want to be bothered
- Registration lets in bad posters – children and Internet addicts tend to have free time to register, check e-mail for confirmation
- Registration attracts polls – in someone is interested in desotrying a forum, registration adds to the sense of challenge. They are not protecting their own registration, they are destroying others
- Anonymity counters vanity – you can’t get particular attention

What should you do?

- Security is policy. Have one
- make some decisions – if you let everyone bad in, won’t work. make it hard for good people, won’t work.
- optimize for growth
- get rid of the bottom 5-10%
- eliminate threaths, calls for violence, personal details, 100% harm – we allow rough stuff, but just wraith is not allowed

Paper: Clay Shirky – A Group is Its Own Worst Enemy

Real challenge: Identify the good stuff – what is your purpose?

This is a well understood problem. A lot of research has been done. There is caselaw for online communities, do the research.

Differences today are scale and impact: great when SXSW is using your product, but when everyone in the US is using it, that is different. There is an offline component to this. You have more of a responsibility when you’re large, this can lead to real-world issues.

Everybody learns the hard way – you won’t do the research, you will get smacked. Even if you’ve done it before, you’ll do it again.

The lessons I learned was to be precise, correct an error promptly and to let the nasty, sexist comments role off my back. They don’t upset me as much now. I’ve gotten used to the incivility. I don’t like it, but I don’t get as angry. – Deborah Howell responding to the craziness that followed her Washington Post article

A really nice summary about keeping online communities healthy and avoiding the acerbic stuff that can go down. I missed the person’s name, but he was from

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arvind s. grover

I am a progressive educator, a podcaster (, a blogger, and dean of faculty of JK-11 school (building a high school) in New York City.