Why Ricochet Matters

 

We’re not much for tooting our own horn here at Ricochet, but allow us a moment to point out that we’ve solved a problem that the academic community regards as nearly insurmountable. From Farhad Manjoo in the New York Times:

The Internet may be losing the war against trolls. At the very least, it isn’t winning. And unless social networks, media sites and governments come up with some innovative way of defeating online troublemakers, the digital world will never be free of the trolls’ collective sway.

It goes on:

That’s the dismal judgment of the handful of scholars who study the broad category of online incivility known as trolling, a problem whose scope is not clear, but whose victims keep mounting.

“As long as the Internet keeps operating according to a click-based economy, trolls will maybe not win, but they will always be present,” said Whitney Phillips, a lecturer at Humboldt State University and the author of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” a forthcoming book about her years of studying bad behavior online. “The faster that the whole media system goes, the more trolls have a foothold to stand on. They are perfectly calibrated to exploit the way media is disseminated these days.”

Hmmm. Defeating trolls? We worked that out awhile ago.

We started with two principles: (1) The internet is full of rude, malicious people who will got out of there way to derail civil conversation; (2) These people are cheap.

Our solution? Basic economics (hey, we’re conservatives!). We created a small barrier to entry in the form of requiring a paid membership to comment on posts. And we fortified our commitment to civility by requiring our members to adhere to a Code of Conduct enforced by our editors. The result? A community so civil that it can generate a debate on abortion that runs to over 350 comments without degenerating into a flame war. Take that, assembled scholarly community!

Is the system perfect? No. We’ve had to drop the hammer on troublemakers from time to time, but that’s just the way of the world. Again, we’re conservatives — we’re not expecting perfection, just aiming for the best practical outcome. Frankly, we think we’ve found it.

Of course, keeping up these standards isn’t cost-free. If you want safe streets, you’ve got to pay your beat cops (you’ll be happy to know that our law enforcement at Ricochet is not militarized — despite several requests from the editors). If you think this is a worthwhile experiment but haven’t yet joined up, consider becoming a Ricochet member today. For as little as $5 a month, you can help us preserve this sanctuary for online civility. And if you’re already a member, consider upgrading to our Thatcher or Reagan membership tiers, which bring with them Ricochet merchandise, access to special podcasts, invitations to live events, and — let’s be honest, this is what you’re all jonesing for — a shout-out from our founders on our flagship podcast.

Thanks to all of you who’ve helped us prove that you can have smart, witty, civil conversation on the web. And for those of you who haven’t … consider joining today. If nothing else, it’ll give you the satisfaction of proving a story in the New York Times wrong.

There are 27 comments.

  1. Mendel Member

    It’s frustrating to see what little effect centuries of economic thinking exerts over modern scholars.

    The “problem” of internet trolls is simply another iteration of the tragedy of the commons: allow the public free unfettered access to a desirable resource, and that resource will be abused. Especially if that resource (comment sections) can be used anonymously, from one’s home, while wearing pajamas at two in the afternoon.

    The internet is not very different from most physical resources available to the masses. Yet somehow our generation has convinced itself that it is a special domain which should somehow be free of the rules of human nature.

    Kudos to Ricochet for not falling into that trap.

    • #1
    • August 15, 2014, at 11:31 AM PDT
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  2. T. McGee Inactive

    Actually, the small fee is really smart idea. After all, it’s not altogether unlikely that the same folks pointlessly trolling the web are the same demanding the government supply their livelihood.

    If that’s the case, the thought of paying $5 would to them be an unthinkable atrocity in no way worth the pleasure of causing trouble for others on the web.

    • #2
    • August 15, 2014, at 11:32 AM PDT
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  3. Mendel Member

    …the digital world will never be free of the trolls’ collective sway.

    They are perfectly calibrated to exploit the way media is disseminated these days.”

    I find these comments baffling.

    If I read an article on the NYT or WSJ website, I don’t see a single comment – if I want to read them (and thereby be exposed to trolls), I have to actively click on a “Comments” link.

    In other words, trolls still don’t have any sway over the dissemination of news from most media outlets. They only have sway when people go to comments sections, or worse get their news directly from Facebook. But as it turns out, many internet users are more entertained by discussions than by actually reading a serious news article.

    In other words, trolls aren’t invading the typical media user’s exposure to news, but rather the typical user is actively seeking out troll breeding grounds in lieu of informing themselves directly. Is that really the trolls’ fault? 

    • #3
    • August 15, 2014, at 11:40 AM PDT
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  4. Doctor Bass Monkey Inactive

    Taming trolls is really pretty simple for any given site. They just have to be willing to have moderation and enforce it consistently. I’ve been involved with several sites for years now (pay and free) that don’t have trolling problems because the moderators deal with it quickly and fairly. The sites that have problems are the ones that don’t bother moderating their own site.

    • #4
    • August 15, 2014, at 11:45 AM PDT
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  5. raycon and lindacon Inactive

    Where ever did Kenneth go?

    • #5
    • August 15, 2014, at 12:54 PM PDT
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  6. Dudley Inactive

    It helps that conservatives are naturally more gracious and possessing of better manners.

    • #6
    • August 15, 2014, at 1:02 PM PDT
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  7. Blue Yeti Admin

    Dudley:

    It helps that conservatives are naturally more gracious and possessing of better manners.

    That may be true, but you wouldn’t know that from reading the comments on other conservative sites. 

    • #7
    • August 15, 2014, at 1:16 PM PDT
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  8. Casey Inactive

    Thanks to all of you who’ve helped us prove that you can have smart, witty, civil conversation on the web.

    You’re welcome.

    • #8
    • August 15, 2014, at 1:43 PM PDT
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  9. Tuck Inactive

    The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

    Russia uses an army of trolls on social media

    I see a whole new revenue stream here for Ricochet! If we start being hyper-critical of Russia, we’ll force the FSB (or whoever’s succeeded the KGB) to sign up for memberships! Thus Putin will be supporting a resurgence of Conservative commentary in America!

    OK, maybe not… ;)

    P.S. Of course the downside of this scheme is more trolls on Ricochet…

    • #9
    • August 15, 2014, at 1:54 PM PDT
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  10. Fricosis Guy Listener

    Tuck:

    The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

    Russia uses an army of trolls on social media

    I see a whole new revenue stream here for Ricochet! If we start being hyper-critical of Russia, we’ll force the FSB (or whoever’s succeeded the KGB) to sign up for memberships! Thus Putin will be supporting a resurgence of Conservative commentary in America!

    OK, maybe not… ;)

    Nice Rico monetization ploy… strong like bull.

    • #10
    • August 15, 2014, at 2:02 PM PDT
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  11. Matt Upton Coolidge

    When I first heard about Ricochet’s model (thank you GLoP podcast), it was a no brainer to sign up. Really, I like being able to pay for stuff I enjoy. The non-paying kind makes me kind of nervous.

    • #11
    • August 15, 2014, at 2:03 PM PDT
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  12. Gary McVey Contributor

    The basic fee is cleverly calculated: almost anyone who isn’t in truly desperate straits can do the $5, but it’s just enough to keep out most idle troublemakers. I once lived in a Hollywood neighborhood that was remarkably free of burglaries. Why? Because it was on a steep hill. Same idea. It wasn’t much of a barrier, but if crooks wanted to work hard, they wouldn’t be crooks. 

    Plus the C-of-C does have a civilizing effect. Just to mention a few names, Doc Jay, Tommy De Seno, Donald Todd and I used to smash metaphorical chairs on each other in our initial Ricochet barroom brawls, but we’re all perfect gentlemen now. More or less. 

    (to be complete, dt is too well mannered to break a chair on my skull, but I could swear he clonked me with a gold chalice full of red wine…;-)

    • #12
    • August 15, 2014, at 2:33 PM PDT
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  13. She Thatcher
    She

    raycon and lindacon:

    Where ever did Kenneth go?

     He went here for a while. But he seems to have disappeared again.

    I have to say, I miss him, in a perverse and weird sort of way.

    Perhaps he’s back on Ricochet, under a different moniker, with a less inflammatory affect.

    Maybe we could have a contest, and guess who he might be?

    Hint: It’s not I.

    • #13
    • August 15, 2014, at 4:02 PM PDT
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  14. SPare Member

    (you’ll be happy to know that our law enforcement at Ricochet is not militarized — despite several requests from the editors).

    My guess is that there are enough of us members with sufficient time around automatic weapons that it wouldn’t be all that effective if you were to try.

    • #14
    • August 15, 2014, at 4:58 PM PDT
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  15. Merina Smith Inactive

    It’s about time for me to renew and I think I’ll go for a higher level. Not that I will take advantage of the perks really, just as support. I appreciate Rico that much. If anyone knows of a similar site that leans left, let me know. I’d love to be part of a civil site on the left where I could put out some conservative ideas.

    • #15
    • August 15, 2014, at 5:27 PM PDT
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  16. Yeah...ok. Inactive

    I try to keep my snark and ill mannered comments to a minimum. I can’t quit cold turkey.

    It’s not the money. Everyone here is way too smart for me. Even the women <g>

    The shame of losing every battle of wits keeps me in check.

    • #16
    • August 15, 2014, at 6:08 PM PDT
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  17. Jules PA Member

    Tuck: Thus Putin will be supporting a resurgence of Conservative commentary in America! OK, maybe not… ;) P.S. Of course the downside of this scheme is more trolls on Ricochet…

     nah, we’ll just have Blue Yeti add a neighbor to the “flag” button…a hammer. (and sickle.) any troll who gets the “hammer” automatically has all their comments in bold red. :)

    • #17
    • August 15, 2014, at 6:25 PM PDT
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  18. Doctor Bass Monkey Inactive

    She:

    raycon and lindacon:

    Where ever did Kenneth go?

    He went here for a while. But he seems to have disappeared again.

    I have to say, I miss him, in a perverse and weird sort of way.

    Perhaps he’s back on Ricochet, under a different moniker, with a less inflammatory affect.

    Maybe we could have a contest, and guess who he might be?

    Hint: It’s not I.

     Why do you think Dime is so cheerful all the time? It’s a front.

    • #18
    • August 15, 2014, at 6:26 PM PDT
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  19. Jules PA Member

    “If you want safe streets, you’ve got to pay your beat cops (you’ll be happy to know that our law enforcement at Ricochet is not militarized — despite several requests from the editors).”

    Will EJHill create a Podcast photo with you guys in camouflage?

    [quote feature is not working?]

    • #19
    • August 15, 2014, at 6:29 PM PDT
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  20. Jimmy Carter Member

    I have to say that I haven’t been “[redacted]” in quite some time. Either I’m softening up or the Code of Conduct is.

    • #20
    • August 15, 2014, at 6:31 PM PDT
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  21. Blue Yeti Admin

    Julia PA:

    [quote feature is not working?]

     Apparently not. We’ll address that ASAP. 

    • #21
    • August 15, 2014, at 6:49 PM PDT
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  22. Profile Photo Member

    The new Rico is slow and this takes ages to type. I want to renew but it is so painful to type or scroll. Is it going to be fixed or improved?

    • #22
    • August 15, 2014, at 7:45 PM PDT
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  23. SkipSul Moderator

    Indaba:

    The new Rico is slow and this takes ages to type. I want to renew but it is so painful to type or scroll. Is it going to be fixed or improved?

     After the recent server move it sped up nicely on my phone and iPad, but that lasted at best a day or so before slowing down to unusable again.

    This does need fixed.

    • #23
    • August 16, 2014, at 9:12 AM PDT
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  24. Larry Koler Inactive

    I think that the routine that is running to update the alerts also runs a script on each of our computers — else how can the number change there automatically. I think this is a big culprit and we should ask your IT guys to not run this script on the pages. Instead, let us click on the alerts button and have it run once whenever we want to find out what alerts are available. 
    Also, is it possible that the ads are running scripts, too. Something is using a lot of bandwidth and we should have the right to control this. I know many other sites do this but Ricochet — in my experience is the worst by far.

    • #24
    • August 16, 2014, at 10:17 AM PDT
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  25. Stad Thatcher

    Thomas McGee: Actually, the small fee is really smart idea.

    I remember one time it was proposed that assessing a one cent for every e-mail sent charge would be one way to stop bulk e-mail spammers. It probably would have worked, but the “keep the net free” folks won out.

    • #25
    • August 16, 2014, at 10:28 AM PDT
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  26. She Thatcher
    She

    Larry Koler:

    I think that the routine that is running to update the alerts also runs a script on each of our computers — else how can the number change there automatically. I think this is a big culprit and we should ask your IT guys to not run this script on the pages. Instead, let us click on the alerts button and have it run once whenever we want to find out what alerts are available. Also, is it possible that the ads are running scripts, too. Something is using a lot of bandwidth and we should have the right to control this. I know many other sites do this but Ricochet — in my experience is the worst by far.

     What happens to me is that the pages refresh faster (yay), but then something’s going on in the background all the time (probably this, or another, script(s), or something) and all my link possibilities (like, post, hyperlinks, read on, alerts, account, ANYTHING) go dead (I don’t get the little ‘hand’ telling me it’s a link), for 10 or 20 seconds at a time. When that happens, I can’t do anything except look at the screen, fiddle with my mouse until the ‘hand’ appears to indicate that the link is active, and then try and do whatever it is I want to do before it locks up again.

    Although I think the screen refreshes are still faster since the server move, this problem seems MUCH worse. (Perhaps this is just because the pages load faster, so I have longer to wait before the links free up . . . . ).

    I am talking my desktop here, with Chrome. I do use Adblock, but I’ve turned that off, and tried another computer without it, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

    I agree that I don’t need the alerts total to increment automatically while I’m on the page. Or most anything else either, actually. That’s because I would like to control what’s happening on the screen, rather than having the screen telling me what it would like me to look at and do. I think I’m the best judge of that. And it’s even worse when the program’s controlling behavior prevents me from doing anything at all except wait . . .and wait . . . and wait.

    • #26
    • August 17, 2014, at 6:36 AM PDT
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  27. Blue Yeti Admin

    We see it. Job #1 on Monday morning.

    • #27
    • August 17, 2014, at 8:46 AM PDT
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