Kendra Vogel: Malicious Reporting

Posting this here on behalf of Kendra Vogel.

Hello, just here to tell a story of my short-lived ban from Quora. I suspect I’ve been a victim of targeted answer and account reporting – the malicious act of a user reporting all content of a certain user they dislike to get them banned. Sometimes they make multiple accounts and use them to mass report to get the quick effect of a ban. I don’t see another way this could have happened the way it did.

I’m not writing you to complain or to feel justice of any sort, but rather to spread awareness of what can happen when someone goes the extra mile to sabotage other users.

I was in the process of merging some questions earlier today (05.20.17) and was suddenly locked out of my account with a message stating my account has been banned. Sure enough, I check my email and “Your account has been banned because it has been linked to suspicious and/or malicious activity that violated Quora’s policies and guidelines.”

Thankfully my ban was lifted a few minutes later after it was brought to the attention of moderation. I logged on to find over 350 notifications – one stating that my account was banned, one stating my ban was lifted, and the other 350-some giving me notification that every single one of my answers was collapsed for “Violating a policy on Quora”.

I suspect this malicious reporting was done by a spammer, but that’s just speculation at this point. I report a lot of spam answers and delete answer wikis that are obviously spam. Some spammers get really angry with me for deleting their answer wiki spam (I recently had a user make multiple accounts very similar to my name and spam using those accounts when their original account got banned for spamming).

I’m glad moderation was able to rectify the situation so quickly. I was also edit blocked on February 14th for “Repeated policy violations” with no recent warnings nor any violations that would have warranted being edit blocked, but that was removed shortly after being implemented after being brought to the attention of moderation.

It’s frightening to realize, but malicious answer and user reporting is a real thing. I’m glad moderation does their best to stay on top of these situations when they do happen. They are currently working on uncollapsing my mistakenly collapsed answers.

Side note: why are we given “violating a policy on Quora” as the reason for answers being collapsed? That doesn’t seem helpful in the slightest.

Which conjugation is Gnōthi ‘know’, as in Gnōthi sauton ‘know thyself’?

This is the aorist imperative active, 2nd person singular, of γιγνώσκω ‘to know’

Alas, γιγνώσκω ‘to know’ is one of the many irregular verbs of Greek. The particular irregularity here is that while its present tense is thematic (a normal -ω verb), it forms its aorist stem γνω- according to the older, athematic paradigm (represented by verbs whose present ends in -μι). So this is an archaic aorist imperative ending, where “normal” verbs have -ε instead.

Smyth’s Grammar, Herbert Weir Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges, goes into the history of these forms—and you need to, for cases like this.


1. Active.

a. 2 Sing.—λῦε, λίπε, τίθει (for τίθε-ε) have not lost –θι. –θι is found in 2 aor. pass. φάνη-θι; in στῆ-θι and ἕστα-θι; in some 2 aorists, like γνῶ-θι, τλῆ-θι, πῖ-θι, which are μι forms though they have presents of the ω form (687). Also in ἴσ-θι be or know, ἴθι go, φάθι or φαθί say. λύθητι is for λυθηθι by 125 b.

466 a. D.θι is not rare in Hom., pres. δίδωθι δίδου, ὄρνυθι, aor. κλῦθι, perf. τέτλαθι. Aeolic has ἴστα_, φίλη. πίει, δέχοι, δίδοι (Pindar) are very rare.

Let’s take this slowly. The normal ending of the imperative 2nd sg is -ε. The older ending is -θι, and you still see it in places in Homer, where Classical Greek would use -ε instead. The old -θι is preserved in the 2nd aorist passive [EDIT: and the 1st aorist passive, where -θη-θι gets dissimilated to -θη-τι]; it is also preserved in the aorist imperative for “stand, know, go, say”, which are athematic verbs (present ἵστημι, [οἶδα], εἶμι, φημί). And it is also preserved in a few 2nd aorists which use old athematic forms “know, suffer, drink”.

Yes, these are irregularities. Sorry. Like Desmond James says, the useful thing to do here is not so much to memorise every verb, as to get familiar with the range of possible endings: just know that -θι is an archaic imperative ending, and you can work out the details later. To identify γνῶθι as an aorist, you rule out the present tense stem, because you know that is reduplicated: γί-γνω-σκε. So γνω- is, by default, the aorist instead.

Yes. I know. Sorry.

Is this Greek writing good or accepted?

It is very elegant, but it has solved the challenge of writing Greek cursively, in ways that will be unfamiliar to Greeks. Of course, these days Greeks are unfamiliar with cursive itself. But in particular:

  • Your π takes off too soon by having its left foot joined to the previous letter. As a result, it is hard to recognise as a pi at all. Admittedly the proper cursive pi, ϖ, is different enough to be unrecognisable to most people nowadays. If that is a non-starter, at least try to make your pi look more like a cursive n. You’re the first pi is more recognisable than your second.
  • Your υ has a right stem, which makes it look disruptively Western. The end of a cursive upsilon should look symmetrical to its beginning, joining the next letter from above. You have done so with your second and with your final upsilon.
  • Do have a look at 19th century cursive for ideas. I’ve posted a picture with an answer somewhere. The downside​ is that, as I mentioned, few Greeks and even fewer non-Greeks will recognise nowadays the peculiarities of the old cursive.

It depends on how you want to use your handwriting. If it’s for your own purposes, keep doing what you’re doing. If you want to be understandable by others, cursive these days is something of a risk, especially with non Greeks (but do get confirmation from non-Greeks on that). If you want to fit into the historical tradition of cursive, you are well on the way, but will need to think about a few letters, to make sure they look both distinct and Greek.

Is there a difference between asking which language is older and asking which species is older?

Will you take a “Yes… and No”? 🙂

The Cladistics of biological species was inspired by the cladistics of languages; the cladistics of languages, in turn, was inspired by the cladistics of classical manuscripts. All three fields have similarities. In all three fields, the classical tree model of divergence is an oversimplification; in fact, in all three, the simplification is surprisingly similar (notions of contamination and hybridisation).

The question of “which X is older” is a confused question in all three fields. The real question behind it—whether the askers realise it or not—is: which specimen, of those whose history is being analysed, preserves the most similarities to the archetype of the range. So the question is not, meaningfully: Is French or Romanian older (they are both spoken right now); but which of French or Romanian is closest to Latin, their common ancestor. Just as the question is not, meaningfully: Is the Elephant older than the Lion (they are both alive right now); but which of the Elephant or the Lion is closer to the Synapsid, their common ancestor.

So in all three cases, the question “which one is older” is misplaced, in a way that the question “which one is more archaic” is not. The three fields have some differences in the objects they study, which means the question of “which one is more archaic”, in turn, is interpreted differently. But I think a more important reason for that difference in interpretation is the three fields belong to different discourses.

Which language is older?

Language is a rather complex system in its evolution, and it is very difficult if not intractable to capture a metric for all linguistic change from an ancestor, across all facets of language. (I have posted elsewhere of a paper doing so for Cantonese and Mandarin phonology from Middle Chinese; phonology is of course the most straightforward field of language to track, and there aren’t many language pairs where so comprehensive a comparison could be made.) Because of the ongoing complexity of language as a system, we tend to assume that simplification in one aspect of language is offset by complexity in another, so that any metrics of change across language would be a wash anyway.

The question of which language is older is contaminated, in any case, by value judgements that linguists find annoying: notions that a more archaic language is purer, more virtuous, more deserving of study, more entitled to its ancestral lands. Because we are comparing contemporary language with contemporary language, because no language has remained unchanged, and because language is separate from ethnicity, territorial continuity, and tribalist virtue, the notion of “oldest” is deeply misleading.

Which species is older?

I’m not great in biology, but from what I know, things are the same over there, minus the value judgements. People aren’t particularly invested in knowing that the Monotreme or the Elephant is “older” as a species than the Lion, because the value judgements aren’t there, and people recognise the limits of archaism for what they are. Unlike linguistics (and any biologist fancies Chomsky has had in 1960 or 2010), biology now has a much more straightforward metric of genetic distance, through DNA mutations: it’s a metric that has caused some upheaval in biological taxonomy. So the question of which species is closer to the archetype can in fact be answered with a number.

And it’s not that useful a number. Even when extended to human lineages. One might argue, especially when extended to human lineages.

Which manuscript is older?

The study of manuscripts, which invented cladistics, is an interesting outlier. Classical Philology definitely is interested in the value judgement of which manuscript preserves the most archaic features, because it is using cladistics to approximate the original language of Homer or Aristophanes, via mediaeval copies. Especially since whatever mutations the scribes introduced in the classical texts are regarded as noise to be gotten rid of.

It’s quite different in Mediaeval Philology, by the way, when the original author was not necessarily that much better a writer than the scribes, and when the scribes did not feel as compelled to copy them verbatim—so that the mutations are no longer clearly noise. Mediaeval Philologists, in fact, aren’t anywhere near as concerned to reconstruct an original text out of the scribes’ handiwork, because they recognise it likely isn’t feasible or worth it.

Unlike linguistics and biology, the specimens being compared in philology are chronologically different: we don’t compare Yiddish to Old German, or pterodactyls to pigeons, but we do compare 11th century and 16th century manuscripts. So there are in fact older and newer manuscripts. And in Classical Philology, the question of which manuscript is more archaic is of core significance. And yet even there, philologists recognised that this does not mean you ignore all but one manuscript.

You certainly do not assume that the chronologically oldest manuscript is the most archaic one: change is random, intervals of copying are random, and fidelity of copying is random: a chronologically older manuscript can contain more errors in transmission than a newer one. Hence the dictum recentiores non deteriores—just because it’s newer doesn’t mean it’s worse. Moreover, again because all manuscripts can contain errors, philologists will not assume that the more archaic manuscripts (as determined by reconstructing their family tree) will preserve the original reading in every instance; and Classical Philologists preserve the right to make a judgement call (selectio) of which reading is the authentic one in different places.

In fact, it’s Mediaeval Philologists, not Classical Philologists, who care more about which specific manuscript is archaic. Because they’re not trying to reconstruct a family tree any more, and make a value judgement on authenticity passage by passage, they tend to just pick one manuscript that looks the least stupid and the most plausibly archaic overall, and publish that: the codex optimus.