Friday, May 8, 2015

Friday Deep Thought

I've been watching some "L Word" episodes on Netflix (again) and it's interesting how my perspective on the show and the characters changes as I age.

I realize I'm a rare lesbian who is entertained, rather than repulsed, by Jenny Schecter, but these days I would love a rehash of L Word where each and every episode consisted of nothing but Jenny producing "Lez Girls," the whole gang having naked pool parties, and Helena Peabody doing pretty much anything.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Update 2015

For the first time in over a year, I've read two books written by men, both non-fiction. 

The first was Bruce Schneier's Data and Goliath, which I thought was great. The second, which I'm still reading, is Lawrence Wright's Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

Wright uses the "gender neutral masculine" throughout (as Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard likewise seemed to do in much of his writing and thought) to refer to all human beings. So I'm find that to be pretty jarring after having had a whole year almost entirely free of that.

Don't worry though, next on my docket is Nancy Manahan's Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence. All will be well again in my world very soon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Researchers Study Online Antisocial Behavior

I have been saying for awhile now that, the longer I've blogged the more adept I've become at spotting patterns that help me predict when a commenter is going to become A Problem.

Via The Mary Sue, researchers at Cornell and Stanford have analyzed "troll" behavior online, in an article entitled, "Antisocial Behavior in Online Discussion Communities" [PDF here].

I use scare quotes around "troll," as it was used by The Mary Sue and within the study itself, as I find that term to often be used in ambiguous and unclear manners. Oftentimes, the term trivializes what, in reality, is violent and profoundly antisocial rhetoric and disruption to people's communities, forums, and lives.

The researchers, in the above-cited study, examined user behavior on,, and, all of which post articles on which users may comment and which ban users found to be disruptive to the community. Analyzing the language in posts, the researchers found differences between who they call "Future Banned Users" (FBUS) and "Never Banned Users."

Some of these differences include:

  • "FBUs tend to write less similarly to other users, and their posts are harder to understand according to standard readability metrics." 
  • "They are also more likely to use language that may stir further conflict (e.g., they use less positive words and use more profanity).
  • "...FBUs make less of an effort to integrate or stay on-topic."
  • FBUs post more than those never banned.
Well, yes, duh.  But, it's nice to see it actually researched, I guess.  Of note, the study also found that communities become less tolerant of someone who is showing antisocial commenting behavior the more frequently that person comments - that is, their later posts are more likely to be deleted than earlier posts even if the later posts are not worse than earlier posts. 

What I've often noticed with respect to that point is that (a) some people actually do escalate their comments when they believe no one is paying attention to them, and (b) when people don't escalate their comments, they will simply post the same thing over and over and over and over again until someone does pay attention to them. Both methods exhaust the tolerance of online communities, for good reason.

I'd like to end with a final note that I found to have particularly interesting future, practical implications to address antisocial online behavior. From the study:
"[We] show that a user’s posting behavior can be used to make predictions about who will be banned in the future. Inspired by our empirical anal- ysis, we design features that capture various aspects of an- tisocial behavior: post content, user activity, community re- sponse, and the actions of community moderators. We find that we can predict with over 80% AUC (area under the ROC curve) whether a user will be subsequently banned. In fact, we only need to observe 5 to 10 user’s posts before a clas- sifier is able to make a reliable prediction. "
Rather than the implementing a comment moderation system that preemptively bans potentially antisocial comments before they're posted, I'm envisioning an automatically-generated message such as, "This post may possibly violate community norms. Does it?", allowing community users to up vote or down vote their opinion (while disallowing multiple votes from the same IP address and user account, similar to Disqus).

Sticking with the definition of antisocial as used in the above study - that is, behavior that deviates from a particular online community's standards - is not perfect (shouldn't some online behavior be considered antisocial in any community?), but would provide for some community-level comment moderation that could lighten the burden on individual moderators.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Blog Update

Comments are going to be closed for the next week or so, FYI.

I'll be back soon!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Whites Riot on North Side of Chicago (Again)

It's that time of year again!

Pub crawls related to the city's St. Patrick's Day Parade this past weekend led to 17 arrests, battery on a police officer, multiple assaults, 40 ambulance calls, a possible sexual assault, and approximately 20 people transported to area hospitals.

As can be seen from photos and transcripts at the above-cited link, this mob action was primarily carried out by masses of young white heterosexuals, with much of the aggression dominated by young white men.

Surprisingly (not surprisingly) there were no reports of police officers killing, choking, or otherwise assaulting these violent individuals, despite the clear threats these individuals were posing to the community and public safety.

Nonetheless, now is the time to re-examine the white heterosexual family unit.

In what ways are white parents modeling this privileged, aggressive behavior?  How are white parents, particularly fathers, contributing to this mayhem? We mustn't let them continue to fail their children.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Correlation

Might this (mansplaining) be related to this (men on average being more narcissistic than women)?

I would speculate yes.

By far, most men who have engaged in mansplaining with me seem to have been motivated by supreme over-confidence in their own intellect coupled with an assumption that my own, a woman's, was beneath theirs.  They have also seen driven by entitlement, both to my time and to engage in aggression when they have deemed me insufficiently pleasant to their attempts to "correct" and "instruct" me.

This being said, I would agree with the speculation that men being, on average, more narcissistic than women is at least partly explained by socialization.

Not all men. Of course.

I also believe that men's on average *ahem* greater confidence in themselves also contributes to women experiencing imposter syndrome.

In my professional life, I have learned to be wary of those, especially men, who often speak with extreme confidence and who rarely express doubt, even when complicated issues arise. I have also learned that, when people are uncertain in professional situations, people who speak confidently can be very convincing, even if they're completely full of shit.   I have seen leaders make horrible decisions, because they listened to the persons who spoke the most confidently rather than the person who expressed uncertainty about a course of action.

When I have been faced with decisions in my own life, I try to remember this, and to therefore trust my gut and listen to my relatively shakier inner monologue that's thinking we maybe don't know all of the facts - even if there's a louder, more confident voice saying otherwise.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ha HA HA, Of Course!

Via Priceonomics:

"The Time Everyone 'Corrected' the World's Smartest Woman"

I grew up reading Parade magazine every Sunday morning and Marilyn vos Savant's "Ask Marilyn" column was, in my opinion, the best part of it.

The above-cited article is chock full of some big-time condescending mansplaining circa 1990, demonstrating that even though the term mansplaining had yet to exist, the phenomenon itself certainly did.

If a Guinness Boom of World  Records holder for Highest IQ can't answer a brainteaser in her column without getting 10,000 letters erroneously telling her she's wrong, where is the hope for the rest of us?