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Computers and social media Humor

Wow, I really need me one of these!

Given the general level of intelligence and erudition of commenters here, rare would be the need for a product such as this:

(Fortune Magazine) — Internet veterans have long complained about the steady erosion of civility — and worse, intelligence — in online discourse. Initially the phenomenon seemed to be a seasonal disorder. It occurred every September when freshmen showed up for college and went online. Tasting for the first time the freedom and power of the Internet, the newbies would behave like a bunch of drunken fraternity pledges, filling electronic bulletin boards with puerile remarks until the upperclassmen could whip them into shape.

Things took a dramatic turn for the worse in 1993, when AOL (Charts, Fortune 500) loosed its tens of thousands — and then millions — of users onto the Net. The event came to be known as the Endless September, and true to its name, it continues to this day.

It’s a serious problem. Fools and bandwidth hogs have a way of driving traffic away from the most successful online destinations, a phenomenon that could ruin the emerging social networks and user-generated aggregators like Digg.

But there’s still hope for intelligent life on the Internet. A team of software developers is hard at work on a “stupid filter” that promises to do to idiotic online comments what a spam filter does to junk and unwanted e-mail: put it in a place where it can’t hurt anyone anymore.

As I said, only a very small percentage of my commenters would ever run afoul of the Stupid Filter, but think of how much nicer it would be. In fact, though, you can help by visiting the StupidFilter page and contributing examples of stupidity for the crack programmers there to use as examples as they develop their filter. They’ve already gathered around 225,000 stupid comments from YouTube and elsewhere and are working on a stupidity ranking system, but they can still use more.

Actually, I’m a bit ambivalent about this project. When a troll invasion hits, as so frequently happens whenever I post about vaccines, anthropogenic global warming (PZ got an even larger influx recently), secondhand smoke, or homeopathy, there are times when I wish I had such a filter. On the other hand, the impressively unsinkable stupidity of many of the “vaccines cause autism” crowd, homeopathy supporters, or global warming “skeptics” is a bit entertaining to behold. It’s also educational, as such people are perfect examples of logical fallacies, cherry picking of data, and just plain stupidity. Shutting them out may in some cases be counterproductive.

At the very least, they provide us something to laugh at.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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