Raden Smith: Apology

I have received this from Raden Smith (see Follow up on Reddit trolls), and am posting it here at his request.

I am Raden Smith from Quora and I am writing this email to you to apologise for trolling on Quora and my online behaviour. I found your email id from your Quora account bio.

I want to tell few things about myself first. I got diagnosed with clinical depression in June, 2016 and I recently failed a major exam for which I was preparing since a year. Things have not been going on too well for me lately. I went to Quora to seek support. Then I got to know about the subreddit ‘indianpeoplequora’. And so I started to troll on quora and cross post it on reddit to gain karma points. My trolling on Quora and cross posting on reddit was simply a means of escapism for me, a way of coping up when things were not going on too well in real life. The Karma points I received on reddit boosted my esteem a bit. It was never my intent to hurt anybody.

Having said this, I have come to realise what I did was wrong. And I apologise for my behaviour and any hurt that I have caused. I have realised that there are better ways to seek support for depression and by trolling I am simply harming myself. I have also realised that failing in exam is not a death sentence and my failure does not give me right to troll others and I just need to prepare better and I too will pass the exam.

When I was small (like 5 – 6 years old) I always thought that I would grow up to be a nice person. However, when I look back on my online behaviour I feel ashamed. My smaller self would never have imagined that I would resort to such means as coping mechanism. I feel very ashamed about the way I behaved and I this is when I realised that I need to apologise.

I have deleted both my Quora as well as Reddit account. (I never trolled on Reddit though). I won’t be back online unless I am going to contribute positively.

I have also, as a means of repentance decided to make a donation to an NGO working in sector of woman welfare or animal welfare. I do not earn much so the amount of donation will be small. But I will donate for sure.

I would be grateful if you can post my apology as an edit to your followup blog post on Reddit trolling as I want to convey to people my apology. Kindly keep the email id anon please. This is my dummy email id but I regularly check it so we can communicate to this id.

I do not have email id of Reddit moderator but if you can pass on my apology to him I would appreciate if very much. I have abused the reason for which that particular sub reddit was created and hence I want to apologise to him.

If there is anything else that I can do let me know. If it is within my means, I will do it.

Linda Zuo: How I was banned

2016–12–04 by Nick Nicholas on Necrologue

I have just been contacted by Linda:

Great job about The Insurgency by the way, if this doesn’t come off as patronizing.

(But no more drawings? [disappointed emoji])

You may or may not remember the answer over which I got banned, but there was an off-Quora exchange with the mods (admin? I admit to not knowing the difference) that I find more offensive than the “faked-an-e-mail-and-maintained-sock-puppets” charges.

So, a few hours after I got banned, Jason Li sent me an e-mail expressing his sympathy and saying he’d written to Quora to protest the ban. I’m not what the exact response he got was, but a while later, he posted in the comments section of a question pertaining to my ban that Jonathan Brill had assured him that they’d tried communicating with me before and that it hadn’t gone well (and that after reading through my edit log, he was more in sympathy with Quora’s position. And, admittedly, that answer wasn’t very nice. But I tried to stay respectful!).

Whether he (Jonathan) meant that they’d talked to me directly after the ban or during the six-odd months I’d been active on Quora doesn’t matter – because there was never, ever any direct contact (other than the reply to a message I’d sent after the deletion of my answer inquiring as to why a certain Power User went unpunished for rudeness, discrimination and plagiarism, which Tatiana insisted – more than once – was faked).

Just thought some people might be interested to know I was swiftly and directly banned over of two BNBRs (the answer and a comment underneath in which I merely quoted the subject of my answer – don’t I get an edit-block first?) and that afterwards some people tried to make it sound as though it was a last resort after reaching out to me and getting a prickly ignore, i.e. tried to make it sound better than it looks—and was.

Eh, maybe this message is a bit rambling and I’m overbeating a dead zebra. Wanted someone to know, so….thanks for reading?

And hi to everyone, if you do publish this 🙂

Why is the new Quora ‘anonymity’ policy so useless?

Let me sidestep the substance of the question, which has been addressed well under:

And let me go to the underlying question: how can Quora make decisions that users disagree with?

Anonymity has been complained about for years.

  • It has been complained about, with suggestions for improvement, on Quora, a forum which Quora staff as far as I can tell don’t accept any feedback from. (And please. Evidence to the contrary welcome. Being yelled at in comments by current or former leads does not count.)
  • It has been complained about, with suggestions for improvement, on the Facebook and IRL top writer groups, some of which putatively Quora staff do accept feedback from.

What we get is… not necessarily addressing the core concerns around anonymity, such as being able to mute anonymous questions. In fact, I’d like to highlight this exchange:


Robert Maxwell : My favorite part of all of this is how Quora’s solution to anonymity abuse was to make anonymous questions and answers even more anonymous.

John Gragson : Supposedly it was to be balanced by more aggressive moderation (“pre-review”, they called it).

Viola Yee : All we really wanted was to block a particular anon.

So why would the changes to anonymity not meet our expectations as a community? And why would they have been delayed for five years?

Here’s some possible explanations, and I think they’re all in play:

Why did it take so long?

  • There may be a leadership vacuum in Quora; it’s been rumoured here, and it’s hard to discern, with the secrecy Quora maintains about itself. (I’ve just started reading Sun Tzu; that’s one bit they seem to have learned from him.) I suspect that there is no advocate to push user concerns around anonymity to the forefront, and that there may not be a lot of strategic thinking going on anyway. In that case, anonymity instead degenerates into a technical puzzle, a computer engineering rather than a social engineering issue. Which would also account for the chasing-one’s-tail activity around Quora UX.
  • Quora has an on-going slowburn PR disaster on its hand with anon abuse, which it has publicly blithely dismissed until it couldn’t any more. The more users, the more abuse; Violet Blue had plenty to report on in 2014, and I’m sure it’s exponentially worse now, because there are exponentially more users now.
  • Quora’s primary responsibility is not user well-being, but whatever its leadership deems a strategic or tactical priority. That is a good thing: Quora isn’t a non-profit that exists to make its users happy, it exists to turn a profit by commodifying its users. That is also a bad thing: it does not mean that Quora is immune from making bad decisions, just because its users think it’s making bad decisions.
    As a result, user discomfort around anonymous trolling has not been a priority to do something about until now.

Why don’t we like it?

  • Quora has limited resources—understandably, as it’s still burning through venture capital six years after launch, and has only started to do something visible about monetisation (ads) within the past year. Anything it does will be on the cheap. Bots, and eliminating as much workflow as possible (hence blanket removal of comments). That maximises the scale of the solution, but of course not its quality.
    • Which of course is why they should never have undertaken to review all anon questions before publishing them. And have a Quora staff member put his name to that statement. It was never going to happen, it hasn’t happened, and bots don’t count as review. Good to know we have the most well-spelled trolls in the business though. (I’d just found an answer saying that a troll question got through with QCR fixing a spelling mistake. No I can’t find it; I was convinced it was by Heather Jedrus, but that’s not turning up anything.)
  • Mountain View, and Silicon Valley in general, seems prone to Not-Invented-Here, which lends them a certain arrogance and lack of consultation in dealing with these kinds of concern. I think it’s been compounded by the insistence that We-are-not-social-media (so we don’t need to learn from social media on how to do moderation), and Shiny Toys (bots will solve everything! And they’re cheap!)
  • If anonymity leaks (and there’s been a few answers suggesting it): lack of QA, lack of real user engagement, reactive implementation, possibly distracted by Shiny Objects rather than security holes.
    • I am privy to an security hole unrelated to anonymity that a friend discovered, which I am not publicising (and which has been reported). I am aghast at it. Things like it are getting through into production, and they should not be. That also points to failure in management: the buck does have to stop somewhere.
  • I think Anonymous’ answer to What’s your view regarding Quora’s new anonymity policy changes (March 2017)? nails it. We have been utterly puzzled about the insistence on true untraceable anonymity, the Wikileaks or Bunker In Syria scenario, whereas overwhelmingly anonymity here is cultural (“don’t feel comfortable putting my real name to this” is a real cultural norm on the internet, and I wouldn’t be sneering about it if I was you). Anon delivers, and I think this theory makes much more sense, as something that would stir Quora leadership into action.

This reminds me of the Apple iPhone case. These new anonymity changes are basically Quora’s way of distancing itself from the responsibility if any law enforcement agency asks about it.

When was the first time that Chinese was translated into any Indo-European language, e.g. Latin, Greek, etc.?

There was no direct contact between Ancient Greeks and China. There were a couple of very limited trade missions between the Roman Empire and China, and from what I remember the information exchange was pretty mangled.

Lots of Chinese was translated into European languages once the Jesuits made contact, led by Matteo Ricci in the 17th century.

But you did not say European, you said Indo-European. The obvious place to look is India. There was clearly translation in the other direction of the Buddhist scriptures, to the extent of the Chinese theorising about translation practice: Chinese translation theory. But the earliest indication I’ve found of the reverse direction is in the 7th century AD:

Translation in China

The most important figure of the first peak of translation in China was the famous monk of the Tang dynasty—Xuan Zang (600-664), who was the main character in A Journey to the West. […]

Xuan Zang was also the first Chinese translator who translated out of Chinese. He translated some of Lao Zi’s (the father of Taoism) works into Sanskrit. He also attempted to translate some other classical Chinese literature for the people of India.

The next indication of translation activity into Indo-European I find is 14th century, under the Pax Mongolica, by Rashid-al-Din Hamadani: (see here). “Among Rashideddin’s other works are four volumes of translations from Chinese into Persian, works that he could not have produced by himself, as well as works on agriculture and medicine that incorporate either translations from Chinese or extensive information on Chinese practice derived from Chinese sources.”

When did you realize you were popular on Quora?

I already substantially answered this on Nick Nicholas’ answer to How long did it take you to become popular on Quora?

As I’ve reported in that and other answers, it was a combination of two things:

  • No longer paying attention to new followers.
  • Having lots of chat with users outside my areas of core expertise.

The topic about me didn’t make as much of an impression on me as it seems to have to some. The attention the “Discord Teens” seem to be paying me has, admittedly, taken me aback.

When did the Greek civilization start and what was going on contemporarily in India?

Mycenaean Greece was a Greek culture, and it was literate at that, though we know none of its literature. The Homeric epics preserve bits and pieces of that culture orally.

But Greek civilisation as we understand it is based on written records, and those written records start with the invention of the alphabet: 8th century BC. Let’s make it 7th century BC for actual literature that wasn’t orally transmitted.

What was India doing in the 7th century BC?

History of India – Wikipedia

From a cursory glance at Wikipedia, India was moving on from Vedic culture to new religions (Śramaṇa) and new systematisations of the old religion (Upanishads), new political structures (Mahajanapada) and new settlements (Iron-Age: Brief Notes on the Second Urbanization in India). The modern tradition of writing in India seems to date from the 4th century BC, but the oral texts of the Vedas, Upanishads, and Epics seem to have been much more extensive than the Greek Epics.

What type of experts are needed on Quora right now? In what subject matters are we deficient?

I don’t have the wherewithal to judge where we don’t have good coverage, and I haven’t thought “I cannot get an answer about this topic on Quora”. Then again, I tend not to ask questions on Quora!

But to back up Joseph Heavner’s point and generalise it:

  • More humanities and social sciences academics.

I have the utmost of contempt for Quora’s credentialism—what Silicon Valley thinks scholarship is about (to quote myself). But if you go diving into linguistics or sociology, you notice that there’s not a lot of regular users who are academics giving specialist advice. Lots of excellent linguists here, for example, not least of whom IS ME. But people whose day job is as a linguistic academic? Thomas Wier, and he doesn’t write often enough.

I have the distant impression that we’ve got plenty of Hard Science and Computer Science academics here, but I could be wrong.

What is your favourite celebrity nickname?

Some celebrity nicknames are funny, and ingenious, and a sign that you have made it big, if you have an instantly recognizable nickname.

On the other hand, some celebrity nicknames show familiar contempt for celebrities, and I like those too. Australian bent in these.

  • Madge for Madonna
    • This. So delightfully pulling her down a peg.
  • Jacko or Wacko Jacko for Michael Jackson
  • The Silver Budgie for Bob Hawke
    • Silver-haired, short
  • The Singing Budgie for Kylie Minogue
    • Sings, short
  • The Mad Monk for Tony Abbott
    • Former seminarian, volatile, social conservative
  • Dipper for Robert DiPierdomenico
  • Farnsey and Barnsey for John Farnham and Jimmy Barnes
    • The rhyme was used as a commentary on the uniformity of Australian rock radio being monopolised by them

What do Greeks think of the song of Çelo Mezanit?

Greeks don’t know the song. Most Greeks barely know about Chameria. And nationalist Greeks who know how the song has become a rallying point for Çam identity may well react with hostility. God knows I read a couple of shitfights on YouTube.

But given the translation and someone who’s not nationalist (e.g. Dimitris Almyrantis: Dimitris Almyrantis’ answer to What do Greeks think of the song of Çelo Mezanit?), you’ll get the recognition of something culturally familiar.

To answer the question, I’m going to YouTube, ignoring the typical “Fuck you Greek pederast” “Fuck you Albanian cur” stuff, and translate the comments made in Greek to a different recording:

  • Epirot and Albanian, it’s almost the one music.
  • We cry and celebrate with the same songs. Whatever they may say, our blood is so mixed together, whether we like it or not.
  • Finally a YouTube user with serious and truthful attitudes! Good health to you and your family, sir! Good luck!
  • [I didn’t translate Prentas Dimtris’ comments, because I actually didn’t understand them; Greek as Foreign Language, I surmise]

I’m not trying to whitewash anything by quoting those. Just point out that if Greeks aren’t given the political context that the song has acquired, and just listen and read the lyrics, they’ll actually like it.

I did too, although I think I’ve heard ballads that got to the point more directly.

Have you ever created your own language?

Yup, around 10. Set in Liliput, because I’d just read Gulliver’s Travels, and accompanied by some map drawing. Inspired by the Latin textbooks I was poring over, and it had a hell of a lot of declension tables. And diacritics. El Glheþ Talossan-level diacritics. Coz they’re k00l.

It wasn’t full, because I don’t think I understood enough about language back then; vocabulary was never a problem though—there’s always more Latin where that came from. Never taught it to anyone. Don’t remember a thing about it.