Natural Language Processing is locked.
Strange things are afoot. Until those things are clarified, I’m holding back on saying anything about them.
But I have been thinking a lot about what my responsibility is in criticising Quora, and I have been challenged by a couple of people on what I should be doing.
I welcome these challenges. There’s no learning without challenge, there’s no maturing without challenge. And even if I do not agree with the challenges, it’s incumbent on me to articulate why, and to do so rationally. I owe that to those who challenge me in good faith.
Before the latest weirdness, I received a message 10 days ago from Abd Ul-Rahman Lomax. Abd Ul-Rahman will be known to some of you from the Quora Users Free Association, which welcomes banned users on its mailing list. With his permission, I’m posting his challenge here, and my response to it—which gave me the opportunity to introspect, on why I get so worked up about things I see wrong with Quora.
I’d like for this to be a dialogue, with him and others, and I welcome thoughts in comments.
My suggestion. Lighten up on the loathing. So Quora Inc. is poorly managed. If I were a shareholder, I’d be screaming at them. However, that would stress my heart and I could fall over and die. Further, people rarely respond well to being loathed. Quora Inc. does not actually exist in reality, it’s a human concept and construct, but people who work for Quora may take it personally.
So, on the scale of problems in the world, of course Quora Inc doesn’t even rate. And I don’t spend night and day plotting their demise, honest I don’t. Even if it sounds like it. I haven’t even had the heart to do any more memes about Quora, on The Memes of Production; I’d be seeking out things to protest, if I did, and I don’t want to do that.
Moreover, I’ve started to make a conscious effort to be constructive in my criticisms. Especially on Rage Against Quora (I will not piss on the welcome mat in Tatiana’s house), but even in general. Yes, the spikiness is still there in my criticisms back on my own turf; but I try not to seek it out, and honestly I wish I got less A2As on it. I didn’t join Quora to protest an admin team.
So what is it that gets me so annoyed? At a secondary remove, the apparent mismanagement, sure; and that’s been sharpened by conversation with Scott Welch, who after all has excellent insights in how to run an IT-based company. But that’s secondary.
And it’s not because I’ve been impacted all that much by misfires on Quora. I got no moderation notices my first 15 months here. Whatever UI misfeatures impact me, they’re just annoyances.
It’s because I have formed friendships here. And I am indignant on behalf of my friends, when they are mis-targeted, or put out, or frustrated.
And because I made a conscious decision. I am IRL a meek person. A conformist. Part of the problem, if you will. I decided that here, to maintain my self-respect, I would speak out more at what I see as unfair. Maybe because the stakes here are not all that high, ultimately. Maybe because online it’s easier.
Yes, it likely has backfired with the humans behind Quora Inc. I haven’t had outright snark from them yet, but I may yet. And yes, this may cost me the TW, although you know, the TW honestly isn’t that big a deal. Then again, if they curate a community, they have a responsibility to be aware of the problems the community has. I do try to speak more for them than for me.
And just as you put together the Quora Users Free Association (which I was aware of), I put together Necrologue. To serve the community where it was not being served, although in different ways.
But yes, you are entirely right. Be the change, don’t let any struggle consume you, and keep perspective. Thank you for pulling me up on this.
See the Quora Knowledge Prize topic and https://www.quora.com/prizes/ . Such a prize already exists, and is funded by external sponsors. These are the current questions: https://www.quora.com/answer/prizes
The topic has a lot of questions about misgivings on the prize; and the prizes to date have been on just IT and US politics.
I don’t know whether there are more answers to “how to” questions than others, and I think it is an artefact of your topics. I tend towards humanities topics in my feed rather than technical topics, and there’s not a whole lot of room for “how” there: there’s a lot more “why”. I also have a lot of Quora Socialising in my feed (such as Survey Questions and Quora itself), and they’re not “why” or “how”: they’re mostly “let’s swap anecdotes”.
I am interested to hear from others in tech topics whether OP’s impression is accurate.
I have some dimestore speculation for why tech topics would have more hows than whys:
- More how questions: The Stack Exchange model: I come to a Q&A site in response to an immediate practical need. I don’t need a why, and I don’t need an analysis, I need a fix to a problem or challenge I am currently facing. That’s not to denigrate the answers you’ll get: all of us who program are deeply grateful to Stack Exchange for getting us out of fixes. All of us also know that Stack Exchange is not where you go to for longterm prognostication of programming language trends.
- More how answers: It is easier to reproduce my praxis in an answer (this is how I go about a task), than it is to reason about the causes and motivations behind a phenomenon (this is why things are the way they are, this is why people are more interested in doing task A than B, this is why you’re coming to a Q&A site). That’s not to say that the people answering hows are dumber than the people answering whys; hopefully they substantially overlap! It is to say that a how answer is just easier to write than a why answer: you don’t have to go digging as deep, you just recount what you do.
The ball got rolling, as Pronunciation of Ancient Greek in teaching – Wikipedia notes, in the early Renaissance, a generation before Erasmus. Erasmus published the system that prevailed in the West since, and that was a closer approximation of the modern reconstruction than Modern Greek pronunciation was:
The study of Greek in the West expanded considerably during the Renaissance, in particular after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, when many Byzantine Greek scholars came to western Europe. At this time, Greek texts were universally pronounced using the medieval pronunciation which survives intact to the present day.
From about 1486, various scholars (notably Antonio of Lebrixa, Girolamo Aleandro, and Aldus Manutius) judged that this pronunciation appeared to be inconsistent with the descriptions handed down by ancient grammarians, and suggested alternative pronunciations. This work culminated in Desiderius Erasmus’ dialogue De recta Latini Graecique sermonis pronuntiatione (1528). The system propounded in this work is called the Erasmian pronunciation.
The pronunciation described by Erasmus is very similar to that currently regarded by most authorities as the authentic pronunciation of Classical Greek (notably the Attic dialect of the 5th century BC). However Erasmus did not actually use this pronunciation himself.
The Modern reconstruction was informed by more close reading of the ancient authorities, internal reconstruction, better knowledge of ancient dialects through inscriptions, and comparative historical linguistics. Once you look at the comparisons of Greek with Sanskrit and Latin, the reconstruction becomes pretty obvious.
For Greek, I’d say γαμώτο, which is Mediaeval Greek for “fuck it!” (The Modern Greek is το γαμώ). See Nick Nicholas’ answer to What’s the best translation of the intensifier “the fuck” in other languages?, with further erudite syntactic discussion thereof.
See also Nick Nicholas’ answer to How do you say swear words in Greek?, although they are not swear phrases (as in, expressions of anger). “To my balls” στ’ αρχίδια μου and “To my dick” στον πούτσο μου (meaning, “I have contempt for you”) are pretty popular, and I was delighted to find the former is shared with Turkish and Azeri.
Don’t know Emily. I posted her on Necrologue when notified of her banning, and asked her friend to convey my regrets, as I regret any ban.
The general argument I will address is, should sock-puppetting be zero-tolerance, or should there be the possibility of cutting users some slack?
- I know people who have “accidentally” (in fact, no-quotes accidentally) created second accounts, and appealed their ban successfully. I know people who have no-quotes accidentally created second accounts, and were permabanned.
- The proportion of people being banned for sockpuppetting—including longstanding, very popular Quora Users—is astounding. Don’t risk it, people. They will find you, and they will nuke you.
- Quora’s onboarding is execrable. No, strike that, it would be execrable if it even existed. People have to go looking, to find out what a big deal sockpuppetting is to moderation.
- Myself, I think sockpuppetting is a far lesser issue than trolling and threats, just as I am unconvinced that Real Name insistence actually achieves much of anything. But that’s my opinion, I don’t run Quora, and neither do you guys.
Assuming for the sake of argument that Emily sockpuppetted inadvertently, at least initially—which is what is being said here.
- The arguments for bringing Emily back are: precedent (there have been successful appeals), corporate responsibility of Quora for poor onboarding, and, well, mercy. Which should be a part of any justice system. Take the circumstances into account, take the likelihood to reoffend, allow the person some good character references. Cut the kid some slack. She won’t do it again. She didn’t mean to.
- The arguments against bringing Emily back are: consistency (Quora can’t be seen to be playing favourites), clarity (those are the rules, no exceptions), and what Marc Bodnick once delightfully called the “rule-bound” nature of Quora Moderation (or something like that): apply rules absolutely, without wiggle-room, so that moderators (including subcontractors and bots) don’t have to expend an inordinate amount of time on decisions.
I know which side I’m on. I can see which side Quora is likely to be on. But I’m laying out the reasoning on both sides as I see it.
Like the others said. There is a split between American accents and Commonwealth accents, with American often more archaic; the retention of r after vowels is the biggest shibboleth (and several British and Irish accents line up with America there). The Australian accent is pretty close to London English, though apparently there was a Midlands influence too.
What is halfway between British and American is not the accent in Australia, but the spelling, and increasingly the vocabulary. We spell jail not gaol, for example, and you will hear more and more US-specific words. As much as anything, that’s media and globalisation.
Thank you again, Habib le toubib, for a thought provoking question about my experience here. I don’t want to spend all my time answering Questions about Quora on Quora, but you really do get to the nub with these.
I was touched to see people close to me answering this, and having an experience pretty close to mine. Sam Murray, John Gragson, Michael Masiello, Clarissa Lohr, Kittie Eubank, Jordan Yates, Michael Koeberg, Habib Fanny, McKayla Kennedy, Heather Jedrus, Elke Weiss, Yonatan Gershon. It’s like one of those “I love youse all” cartoons I keep drawing (with some future members).
A lot of what I’ll say will overlap, but this is a survey question.
- Like the Magister said, I no longer differentiate my new followers; I’m sorry, there are already too many of them. I feel bad about that, but it is what it is.
- I have become extremely picky now about following new people. I want to keep it to a manageable size: I can’t keep it as low as the Right number determined through primate research (150, as Michaelis Maus has pointed out somewhere), but I am trying to get not too far above 300.
- Jordan commented somewhere that she spends a minute, when she gets followed by someone new, to see if they’re worth following back. I used to spend that amount of time, when I read that answer by her: read some answers, check their tenor. Not any more. It’s 5 seconds now: topics I care about? No? Next.
- If you keep upvoting me and commenting at me, I will notice you. But not at the outset. I’m sorry.
- The intimacy has gone, as others have noted too. I am interacting with a much broader range of people, and I’m happy to. But I miss the time when it was just three middle aged Hellenophiles against the world 🙂 .
- My post It feels hollower by Nick Nicholas on Opɯdʒɯlɯklɑr In Exile was mostly about how disgusted I was at how Sierra Spaulding had been treated here. But I alluded to something else in it: the start of me becoming “popular”, and how it felt like selling out.
Quora has been even less the same for me this past month, as the two voices I have come to cherish the most here, Michael Masiello’s and Dimitra Triantafyllidou’s, have been stilled—Dimitra because she actually has stuff in real life to deal with, Michael because he was shut down, and so were his friends.
To be brutal, having my friends out of my feed has allowed me to connect with new voices; the feed is harsh like that. But it hasn’t felt the same for me. I mean no insult to those I’ve started following the past month; there’s a reason I have, and I look forward to getting to know them even better. But it feels hollower for me here.
- Many more A2As, and much less of a chance to go finding questions on my own. I prefer questions I find, as I pondered at Nick Nicholas’ answer to Do you feel differently about A2A questions, compared to questions you find on your own? And sometimes the A2A backlog depresses me. (I’m also not aggressive enough at culling it.)
- I haven’t accepted the pressure to be more careful about what I upvote: Nick Nicholas’ answer to Are you more careful about what you upvote/comment on answers because your followers will see it in their feed? The issue has come up; it may have cost me a friend, and it’s under discussion with someone else in PM right now. I’ve made my call though.
- A hell of a lot more time spent on comments and PM, much less time spent on answers, and much less time spent on learning from others. I am starting to have notifications turned on for those closest to me, so I don’t miss their stuff. And there are days I don’t make it to the feed at all.
I can corroborate Kathleen Grace: if you don’t hear back on an appeal within two weeks, it has been rejected.
Of course, I disagree radically with her about whether non-response is constructive customer service, or whether a one-line “you have violated BNBR” really helps you work out what the hell just happened in your 6 para answer. But there you go.
I have had two Spam notices and two benburrs (h/t Gigi J Wolf) within a month in December, after 15 months with no action. The Spam notices were both appealed successfully. Interestingly, one of the Spam notices must have been mislabelled; I didn’t even remember what the comment was, and on seeing it it seems to have been… BNBR against a former prime minister. Or ISIS.
The two BNBR appeals (one of which I’ve posted about at The Insurgency) have been unanswered, so presumed rejected.