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Moderation Policy

Blogs like this one aren't just diaries; they're conversations. Behind every essay, rant, or quip, there's a comments thread where visitors like you are welcome to comment. And over the years, I've acquired quite a few regular visitors; sometimes this place feels like the inside of a public house. It's a web community, of sorts — and like all communities which grow large, sooner or later they acquire unruly elements.

Lately I've had some cause for concern over the way some people are using the comment threads on my blog. So I've decided to lay down the law.

(If you post here regularly, or are thinking of posting here, please hit the "Continue Reading" link below.)

1: This is my soap-box.

This blog exists to give me, Charlie Stross, the freedom to say whatever I want.

You'll have noticed that the only adverts I carry are discreet links to online stores which sell my books. Running this blog is quite time-consuming, and paying for the collocated server it resides on is not cheap; most blogs that get as much traffic as mine (over 100,000 distinct views on the main page per week, last time I looked) are awash with blinking banner ads. I decided not to carry ads deliberately, because the first principle of this blog is that it's my soap-box, my megaphone. In a very real sense this entire blog is advertising for one thing — me, and my writing.

You're welcome to comment on my writing here. But just remember: I'm paying the bills. This is my soap box, not yours, maintained entirely at my expense, for my own amusement. I don't owe you anything. And by posting here you are tacitly agreeing to play by my rules.

2: Censorship

Your freedom of speech does not compel me to publish your words. If you say something highly objectionable to me, I will delete your comment without a second thought as soon as I notice it. (Which may take some time: I have a real life, as well as blogging.) Yes, this is censorship. But remember: I'm not your government. I can't stop you saying stuff I find objectionable — all I can do is stop you saying it on my blog, at my expense. You can start your own blog right here, if you're so inclined.

3: Stuff I find objectionable

Trolling, spam, personal attacks, racism, sexism, religious evangelism, and homophobia will reliably annoy me.

Beyond that, I'm not going to give you a laundry list. If you want to second-guess me, you might want to bear in mind that I'm an adoptive Scot of Jewish ethnicity, whose religious outlook is similar to that of Richard Dawkins, who votes straight Liberal Democrat in elections, who sees eye to eye with Cory Doctorow on IP and civil liberties issues, and whose partner does AIDS charity work. If you want an SF writer who shares American conservative sensibilities, you're reading the wrong blog.

4: Stuff I don't find objectionable

I don't give a shit about profanity, as long as it's used intelligently. And I don't mind argument and contradiction, as long as it's intelligent. Again: no laundry lists here.

5: Other annoyances

Unfortunately, the server this blog is based on is sited in London, and is therefore subject to the English law on defamation and libel, which is entirely batshit crazy. Here's a concise layman's guide to what that means. I expect you to avoid making libelous postings for the same reason I expect you to avoid going into a friend's house and smearing shit on their kitchen worktop: it's smelly, unpleasant, and leaves a mess for them to clean up. Hint for Americans: your First Amendment right does not apply outside the United States, and braying about it will not pay my legal fees.

(Hint: if you want to say controversial things, read this guide anyway. There are routes through the legal minefield.)

6: Moderation

Certain keywords will automatically get your postings held for inspection by a human being. Excessive use of links to other websites will do that, too (it's an anti-spam precaution; yes, I regularly get hit by blog spammers). I may also intervene if you hit one of my hot-buttons.

Given the volume of discussion here (I think we topped 700 posts this week) I will in due course be giving moderator privileges to trustworthy folks so they can help ride herd on the conversation. I might also be giving them posting privileges. If so, I'll add to this posting as/when I have names to name.

Update: On posting URLs ...

Comments will be held for approval if they contain more than one URL. And they will be flagged as spam automatically if they contain a link via tinyurl.com. (That's because spammers have tried using tinyurl.com links here, not because I hate tinyurl.com. There's a time and a place for tinyurl.com, and my blog ain't it. If you want to post a link, I want to be able to read the full domain name and path before I click on it.)

7: Permanence

By hitting the "submit" button you are granting me a non-exclusive license to publish your words around the world in electronic or other forms. You should assume that anything you post here may remain on the internet and be readable by anyone at all for the forseeable future, and not just on my blog. No, I'm not planning on selling your deathless prose and getting rich; I'm just pointing out the copyright situation and the fact that my blog is crawled by google, archived by the British Library, and so on.

If you ask me to delete a specific comment of yours I will probably do so — but don't count on it. (I might not do so if I suspect that you're not the author of the comment, or are otherwise trying to make mischief.)

(Finally: feel free to vent, comment, or throw rotten tomatoes at this thread!)

115 Comments

1:

I for one welcome our Strossian overlords.

2:

You're jewish?

3:

Sounds reasonable to me -- your property, your time, yours to do with as you please. :)

4:

Can I have your spam?

I can automoderate the spam if you want, too: http://www.vivtek.com/projects/forum_despammer/ for the meager documentation I've put together so far, but the system's working well for a few forums at the moment. The code's got a light touch and won't get in the way of legitimate posts -- well, of course, it *might*, but the goal is not to. Anyway, the idea is to cut down on the need for human moderation without cutting off, say, anonymous posting, which I personally consider valuable.

5:

Michael, I'm using MT-Akismet; it gets about 98% of the blog spam instantly, and the spammers tend to give up. I periodically see attacks on old threads, hence the tendency to close them after 4 weeks, but I think only two spams have gotten through into an actual blog thread in the past three months; I can go whole weeks without seeing a spammer.

6:

Question. Say I am the 6th commenter, and my comment goes into the keyword-queue. By the time it's approved, 10 more people have commented without being queued.

Does my comment appear as number 6, or number 16?

(I think I got queued the other day and it confused me).

7:

TheophileEscargot: your comment would show up as number 6. So, folks, if replying to Joe's comment at #16, it's a good idea to reference Joe's name as well as the comment number (because by the time folks see it, it might be off-by-one or two).

8:

CC@2: Jewish ethnicity != Jewish, necessarily. It might just be that a recent ancestor was Jewish. (I'm in the same boat, pretty much: indeed my aunt still considers herself Jewish and thinks her parents and all siblings and offspring thereof are backsliders. Well actually she uses much ruder words than that.)

9:

Sounds good Charlie, your house, your rules. :)

10:

Nix @8: It might just be that a recent ancestor was Jewish. ... Like, oh, both my parents?

Yes, I had a Jewish upbringing. No, it didn't stick. I was a hardcore atheist by the time I was 10.

11:

You use Wordpress?

(I guess that from the mention of Akismet ...)

12:

Reads like a sensible policy.

14:

Lib-Dem. Well, one lives and learns. All fine by me.

15:

I'm afraid that, in one respect, you may not be being paranoid enough about libel.

From what I was taught in newspaper sub-editor training, Urban75 are wrong about nicknames conferring protection against English libel law. If reasonable people would think that a defamatory statement you've published was about me, then I can sue you. This is why local newspapers are so keen on giving ages and addresses for everyone they mention, particularly in court cases; it makes it harder for all the other Charles Strosses, or Jasper Milvains, to send solicitors' letters. A nickname that could refer to several people might just allow several people to sue you.

On the other hand, nicknames do offer some protection against litigious people with Google alerts.

16:

You waited until you were 10 before you became a hardcore atheist? :-)

17:

"[F]eel free to vent, comment, or throw rotten tomatoes at this thread!"

Mr. S.,

Here in Illinois, throwing tomatoes may constitute a biological attack: http://tinyurl.com/6l75sy

Diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps and an infection that spreads from the intestines into the bloodstream -- ain't a deregulated, global marketplace grand?

-- SCAM
so-called "Austin Mayor"
http://austinmayor.blogspot.com

18:

Seems fair.

Now this is just random curiosity on my part, but on what end of the Jewish spectrum were you raised (yes, I know this works differently in the US and Britain in that the theology varies a fair bit); if you're uninterested in commenting on such issues, I have no problem with that - I'm merely asking out of my own personal interest.

Disclaimer: brought up Jewish and actively so.

19:

Sounds entirely reasonable to me. Note: if you want to take your hosting elsewhere (either because of the libel-law thing or because of the costs), I'm a member of a not-for-profit hosting provider in Germany, so feel free to talk to me if you're interested.

20:

Charlie,

Go ahead and put some ads on your site. I would still read it anyway and you deserve the income for the work you put in.

I'm reading the Merchant Princes books right now.

Great stuff!!!!

21:

Till @11: no, I use Movable Type. MT-Akismet is a Movable Type API for Akismet. (Can't stand PHP -- I'm a Perl guy at heart.)

Benjamin @18: Reform, as in RSGB (nothing like Reform in USA, as I understand it). I tend to describe it to the curious as "the Jewish equivalent of Methodism" -- no bells and smells and short services, but if you whisper in the back row everybody turns and stares at you.

22:

David @20: no, no ads.

(a) I really hate advertising with a burning passion -- I've been sensitized by spam to the point where I have difficulty watching commercial TV any more, and I am not noway nohow going to watch ads on my own blog.

(b) If you order my books via the "buy it now" links on the sidebar (to Amazon) I get a kickback. It's not large, but it's not tiny, either; it goes a little way towards defraying the running costs of the blog. So there are ads, in a manner of speaking -- but as I said earlier: what this site is really doing is advertising me, and my writing.

23:

Yes, I had a Jewish upbringing. No, it didn't stick. I was a hardcore atheist by the time I was 10.

Well, yeah, but are you still a Jewish atheist? I'm a sceptical agnostic, but I'm a Catholic agnostic - the conditioning sticks.

Darn - and I was just going to advertise my copy of Mein Kampf for sale here, too.

24:

Absolutely reasonable. That it's necessary is a good thing.

25:

If you need some extra spam control, I hear Bad Behavior is quite good - and plays nice with Akismet to boot. You can find it at http://www.bad-behavior.ioerror.us/ .

26:

Charlie, here is what I think of your rules:

{...comment pre-deleted for editorial convenience...}

---
In all seriousness, I like the rules you put up. They convey the sense of what is in and out of bounds, while also being general enough that you don't have argue with blog-lawyers about whether their post violates your comment rules. Good job.

27:

I just looked into RSGB; they appear very similar to American Reform (URJ; Union for Reform Judaism) - with the same fixation on social justice and that end of Jewish practice and tradition rather than on the more traditionalist aspects. As I recall, RSGB and URJ get on quite well - their collective interests in equality and dialog serve them in good stead here.

Myself, I'm on what could be termed the traditionalist end of American reform Judaism (if that sounds confusing, it's because it is; the pithy phrase one of my friends came up with to define where I actually end up is "frum Reform" which is essentially true, although amusing - as the term "frum" generally connotes Orthodox Jews with serious facial hair and such).

28:

but if you whisper in the back row everybody turns and stares at you.

Man, that is different from the US. I've been to services about 10 times in the last 40 years (I'm not religious, but Eva is, and my kids got enough instruction about it to make an informed choice), and I think every single time, except on High Holy Days, it was meet and greet through most of the service: Shake hands, how's the family, are you coming to the lunch afterwards, sorry, got to go over there and say hello to Shmuel. From my point of view it's nice to see people not taking it very seriously.

As if you needed me to say it, your rules are fine by me, and not much of a surprise, since you've been running the blog that way since I've been coming here. Makes for a pleasant place to hang out, most of the time. When it isn't, the hammer usually drops quickly enough for the firestorm not to do too much damage.


29:

I'm disappointed that the policy doesn't, as threatened, include the phrase "Christ's Bowels". As noted by others, this is just the written version of what you've been doing, which has been working out just fine.

30:

It's really not that unusual to find a Jewish atheist. I suppose Einstein was more an agnostic, but he was still Jewish in his outlook (in my opinion).

You can be Jewish and not religious, I consider it as much an ethnicity for most Jews (except for converts, though many are of Jewish descent). I'm a Jew because my mother is a Jew and her parents and grandparents etc. were. Though I'm of Scottish descent on my father's side, I identify myself as Jewish, but I still like to wear my kilt.

I consider myself to be a liberal, ethnic Jew, more observant than religious, member and librarian at a Conservative/Reform synagogue.

Personally I don't care for the term atheist, to me it implies being against god, and what is the point of being against something that doesn't exist? I'm against what is done in the name of the non-existant one.

Sorry, I rambled a bit, can't remember what all I meant to say.

Oh, one last thing,
Look up liberal in a dictionary, it means to be open-minded. So, if (politically) conservative is the opposite...

31:

Aha, Akismet does a pretty good job, yeah. Well, if you want a human obsessor for the other 2% so you don't have to bother, drop me a line. I've been doing some work with MovableType anyway (donttasemeblog.com, plus I helped restore Making Light to its renewed glory, still sans a few posts here and there.)

32:

Charlie Stross said:

"If you want an SF writer who shares American conservative sensibilities, you're reading the wrong blog."

Damn. That's what I are...I think. I do, however, find great enjoyment in reading your "stuff" and haven't found myself in serious disagreement.

Wonder why that is?

33:

Moderation is a regrettable necessity; I believe that it is wrong; or rather, that the need for it is wrong.

But there is a right and a wrong way to go about righting that wrong, and I wouldn't use other peoples' online spaces - nor mine - to co-opt them into fighting expensive legal battles that could end in bankruptcy or extradition and imprisonment.

I've blogged about this elsewhere, when SixApart put in a 'Flagging' system for LiveJournal posts with adult content.

The short version is this:


Yes, it's dystopian: wake up and smell the coffee. SixApart have reasons to be frightened and defensive and I do not believe that their high-risk practice of providing anyone a space to say anything they please will be legally or financially tenable by the end of the decade. Providing a toolkit for self-censorship is their only way of buying time against legal assault and in the end it isn't going to be enough.

I believe that this is true of 'social' journals, 'serious' blogs and - especially - comment spaces open to the general public. We don't have the sheer mass of stupidity that turns up on Speeek Yore Branez but it would only take one idiot and a quick call to Fox or the Daily Mail to close down the site - or at least, embroil our host in cripplingly-expensive litigation.

34:

Moderation is a regrettable necessity; I believe that it is wrong; or rather, that the need for it is wrong.

But there is a right and a wrong way to go about righting that wrong, and I wouldn't use other peoples' online spaces - nor mine - to co-opt them into fighting expensive legal battles that could end in bankruptcy or extradition and imprisonment.

I've blogged about this elsewhere, when SixApart put in a 'Flagging' system for LiveJournal posts with adult content.

The short version is this:


Yes, it's dystopian: wake up and smell the coffee. SixApart have reasons to be frightened and defensive and I do not believe that their high-risk practice of providing anyone a space to say anything they please will be legally or financially tenable by the end of the decade. Providing a toolkit for self-censorship is their only way of buying time against legal assault and in the end it isn't going to be enough.

I believe that this is true of 'social' journals, 'serious' blogs and - especially - comment spaces open to the general public. We don't have the sheer mass of stupidity that turns up on Speeek Yore Branez but it would only take one idiot and a quick call to Fox or the Daily Mail to close down the site - or at least, embroil our host in cripplingly-expensive litigation.

35:

Ack. Got a double-click on the 'post' button. Mea Culpa.

36:

Charlie, lets hope this moderation policy helps with the post-[Wired/Slashdotted/Dugg/reditted] crush at the comment queue. I have read and enjoy your blog and books, with occasional comment at times here.

Americans by and large, as well as many others, do not recognize precisely how 'interesting' UK laws can be, in this particular, the libel laws.
Then again, anyone coming into the United States without a careful examination of our new policies regarding foreign nationals, indefinite retention, deep hard drive inspection, and waterboarding might be in for a shocker.

Does anyone else remember when waterboarding was one of the things you called "hooking up a snowboard to a tow rope behind a boat and trying to break your neck/ankles like a damn fool"?

I wish I'd known about the Amazon-kickback earlier. I've an unfortunate addiction to 'authors I love' in hardback, which means aforementioned Cory D's "Little Brother" will grace my bookshelf once someone gets another printing in that I don't have to wait indefinitely for. The only failing of books-by-mail is the inability to have them instantly.

As a Jewish atheist mutt (Scots, German, Polish, English, Russian, Mongol, Blackfoot, and lord knows who else may've snuck into the gene pool by now), I am now curious about your experience in Scotland, though this may not be the place for it.
There is a pervasive, offensive undercurrent in American society [painted with a broad brush] towards someone of Jewish ancestry. Even friends forget, sometimes, which makes for an uncomfortable moment of 'blank stare' while they realize they just said something offensive. The religious considerations become almost a subscript to the bloodline and any audible, public acknowledgment of it.

Aside: Does anyone know if UK libel and slander laws hold to servers not on UK soil but paid for or maintained by UK citizens? Or to perhaps donated services or servers, or services/servers given to UK citizens?
Hence, DataHaven/Sealand, though their website does mention "* No material that is obscene, threatening, abusive, libelous, or encourages conduct that would constitute a criminal offense."
I am certain there are other data havens out there, as well. Then again, international treaties keep growing teeth in unusual places...

37:

Oh, come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I'm being repressed!

38:

Well, someone had to say it. The "watery tart" line didn't quite fit, no mention of swords and what not.

39:

Though I'm of Scottish descent on my father's side, I identify myself as Jewish, but I still like to wear my kilt.

So... you cut a few inches off of the caber before tossing it?

40:

Everitt @ 32: One of the great mysteries of the world is why so many American conservatives and libertarians love Scottish SF authors of a leftward tilt.

41:

I have no Scottish ancestry (that I know of), and am ethnically Jewish. However, I'm entitled to wear several tartans. The American Bicentennial, to begin with. Tartans appropriate for every country my ancestors lived in. (As I understand it, if there's no tartan for your contry, one can adopt the tartan of a Scot who served in that country's armed services.) My paternal grandparents lived in Canada for a bit, and every Canadian province has an official tartan.

So far as I know, no one has designed a Lunar or a Martian tartan.

42:

AAAARGH! I can't believe this! After all this time, reading stuff that other people have put time and thought into, you want me to show respect and restraint!!!

You disgust me. All of you.

There I was happily thinking that Charlie's Diary was my own personal blog... Screw you hippies I'm going home.

Oh wait, I am. Dammit.

:)

43:

Andrew @39: I like to think that said American conservatives are repressing their libertarian natures, and that said Americans of both stripes are repressing their left-libertarian natures.

Of course, I like to think this because I'm an American left-libertarian infatuated with leftward-tilting Scottish SF authors, and I obviously have good reason to be.

Oh, and I am thrilled by the explicit establishment of a moderation policy. Be asses elsewhere, asses.

44:

but if you whisper in the back row everybody turns and stares at you.

My understanding is that this is the essence of all religions tolerated in the UK since the foundation of modern Anglicanism. (Actual belief is frowned upon to some extent; overt belief is beyond the pale.)

I'd rather have people staring than yet another bloody religious war. If vi versus emacs was really a religious war nearly all the followers of both would be dead by now, or confused into running Word by repeated forced conversions.

(Oh, wait...)

45:

@39-- the major objection to "liberalism" on the part of libertarians is enforced collectivism and required service to the state or to one's neighbor.
Contrast with the protagonist in Accellerando, who explicitly rejects the notion that he must go earn money in order for it to be taxed to pay for the retirements of his fellow citizens.

46:

Atheist, huh. I'm gay and I'm still Catholic, but its Irish Catholic and I cannot take the guilt that leaving would generate. That and I won't give any sastisfaction to the conservative wing of the Church. I love quoting Church doctrine at them to undermine their own positions and justify me being there. Drives 'em nuts.

47:

I'm wondering why you don't host your blog somewhere that minimizes having to worry about local speech laws. I suppose it's not necessarily that big a deal with active moderation, but I'd categorize unnecessary liability as a problem worth solving proactively.

48:

Todd @46: because the law doesn't work that way. (There've been libel cases in the English high court where the plaintiff was in country X, the defendant was in country Y, and the only grounds for suing in England was that a couple of copies of a magazine had been imported and sold in a London newsagent. If a libel can be seen in England then the English courts claim jurisdiction. Mad as a fish? I couldn't possibly comment ...)

Note for the religious kibbitzers; I haven't been in a synagogue for more than thirty years, I am observant to the extent of eating a daily bacon sandwich, and one of my most profound desires is that all organized religious hierarchies everywhere would just spontaneously disappear. (Disorganized and non-hierarchical I've got no problem with. They're generally not the ones doing the cutting off of hands and/or campaigning against abortion.)

49:

Charlie @ #22
You mean you actually WATCH TV ?

Even BBC got to the point, lo these many years past where I gave up.
Now we have the magic of the internet, who needs TV, any TV?

Mind you, I get regular threats and menaces from the licence fascists.
I believe there was a case actually in Edinburgh in 1987/8, which came spectacularly undone, for the point of view of the petty nazis bureaucrats.

50:

"I can't stop you saying stuff I find objectionable -- all I can do is stop you saying it on my blog, at my expense."

Thats the core of it, right there! Well said.

51:

Freedom of the press belongs to those who own the press. In which, much wisdom.

52:

who votes straight Liberal Democrat Translation for US-centric folk. That's not the same thing as the Liberal wing of the US Democratic party. Not at all. That is the closest thing to it in US politics, but it's different in too many ways to enumerate. But you'd start a list with "further left" and "more small-l liberterian".

53:

John @51: I was going to add something like that to my moderation policy but figured short was sweet. Yes: the LDP is right off the map by mainstream US political standards.

They represent a solid subset (20-25%) of the British electorate -- the ones who aren't in favour of turning the country into a 24x7 CCTV-monitored police state and selling off the national infrastructure to their rich cronies. They've got one or two policies I don't agree with, but in general I'm about a 90% match: much better than either Labour or the Conservatives. They were formed by a merger between the old Liberal party and the Social Democrat Party, a short-lived right wing splinter from Labour in the 1980s (who are, ironicially, now a way to the left of where Labour has gone under Tony Blair).

54:

John@51: It also has less chance of getting into power than the Democrats. Whether I think this is a good thing or not generally depends on how awful the other parties are acting this week...

(as a completely irrelevant aside, anyone else here seen _Primer_? I saw it for the first time this weekend and was completely blown away, not least by its resolute refusal to talk down to the audience. More than anything it reminded me of parts of Accelerando, except that Accelerando was less confusing on first reading because you didn't have to infer 80% of the plot.)

55:

For those of us who live in the Former People's Democratic Republic of Camden, we know the Lib-Dems as yellow Tories, largely because of their coalition with the Tories here, and because they basically are tories round here, but are too Yellow to admit it to themselves...

56:

This additional religious comment will make me sound staggeringly conflicted (this is true, and if I wasn't a research scientist by trade, I'd write a bloody book on it), but I'm of the opinion that the single scariest justification for action is the old religious warhorse that "we're doing X (have X be invading / murder / outlawing your faith in favor of our own / etc) for the good of your soul."

And to leave you with a more amusing comment:

Impiety: Your irreverence towards my deity. [Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary]

Why yes, I can make fun of religion.

57:

Charlie has made the national press, in a good way:

http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/sciencefiction/story/0,,2284587,00.html

Looks like those email interviews he was complaining about may have been worthwhile.

58:

Benjamin @57: in my opinion, the folks who hold religious opinions and aren't conflicted are the dangerous ones.

AH @56: Thanks! (Smug now :)

59:

I am shocked, shocked I tell you, to find that you are not a US-type neo-con Bush-Hugger!

60:
I was a hardcore atheist by the time I was 10.
I was 14 (had been Bar Mitzvahed, went to Shul every week) when I asked my parents (who never went) if I had to go to services. They said "No".

All I could think was "There are caroons to watch! And the library opens at 8 AM! Why am I spending 3 hours in the synagogue?"...

61:

I know charlie's moved om, but...

RandolphCarter @38 No need for a shorter caber, a bris doesn't shorten anything.

Dan Goodman @40 It's my understanding that anyone can wear Royal Stuart, If you're Japanese and want to wear a kilt, there tou go. Of course who's gonna stop you from wearing whatever you want?

62:

Charlie founds Bacon-Sandwich-Every-Day-ianism!

I anoint myself Turbo Cardinal RasherSwine NomNom McSizzlePants 3000+ Turbo.

Now, all Ye, purify thyselves with bacon porn.

(Sorry, the idea happened, and then the words just, and, well ... sorry)

63:

Re: 53

My wife and son and I have seen "Primer" about half a dozen times each, read the websites and blogs with their differing reconstructed chronologies and clashing hypotheses, and argued long into the night.

Never before heard in compared to Accelerando. For one thing, Primer is set in an extremely mundane frame story, and the University of Texas plus storage warehouse plus suburbia locations-shoots enhance that. The DVD has a "the making of" track that explains how this was forced by budget, but allowed artistic ingenuity.

Made by nerds, for nerds, about nerds, with an awesomely sophisticated plot, insight into how real science and engineering is done, Venture Capital, jealousy, and so much more. It is much more tricky than it looks the first time through. It gains on re-viewing, for those who do the work of interpolation from noisy and intentionally misleading data.

For big budget, I've seen "2001" over 20 times, and loved it every time. But for microbudget?

Dollar for dollar, "Primer" is the greatest Science Fiction movie ever made.

64:

I wish the United States political spectrum included left-libertarians. Over here, we're considered a contradiction in terms.

65:

Nix @ 53: Primer is frickin' amazing. I saw it on its premier or near premier at the Hawaii International Film Festival, and on the way out of the theater, everyone was talking to each other, comparing notes on what they thought had happened. I definitely missed major parts of what was going on the first time around, though I had some general idea. I got some more bits on the second or third watching on DVD, and there are a few bits I still haven't figured out.

66:

Patricia @63 - Absolutely. Growing up, I always felt so politically cognitively dissonant. It's almost evil how the available terminology defines the hard landscape of thinkable thoughts, Sapir-Whorf and whatnot. Bob bless the internet!

Speaking of, I'm downloading _Primer_. I can think of no more tantalizing review than (Nix@53) "reminded me of parts of Accelerando"

67:

one of my most profound desires is that all organized religious hierarchies everywhere would just spontaneously disappear. (Disorganized and non-hierarchical I've got no problem with. They're generally not the ones doing the cutting off of hands and/or campaigning against abortion.)

applauds.

Your blog, your right. I'm here for the ideas and debates and those aren't likely to suffer under your rools.

68:

But, Patricia, the landscape is changing. We're changing it. Sometimes I think Bush is the best thing that ever happened to the US. By almost permanently fucking things up, he's created a leftward backlash the likes of which hasn't been seen. Like the Fremen under the Harkonens or something ^_^. And Obama's going to massacre McCain. It will be historic and brutal. Things are (sort of) looking up.

69:

Luke, I wish I shared your optimism.

70:

NOTE: I just added a seventh clause to the moderation policy. I hope it's not too onerous ...

71:

The seventh clause maybe a tipping point for some, but now the ultimate catch 22 has materilised. How can they vent their dislike without posting, which, in turn allows you to sell their dribble to the highest publishing bidder of your choice expanding your bank balance in a Carlos Slim styli?

On a slightly different view point, can we then use your replies to drop into idle conversation in such a way as... 'when I was discussing with Charles Stross recently'? or even quote you to generate untold riches for ourselves. (I'll get my coat).

72:

Graham, if it was possible to get rich selling blog comments, I'm sure someone would have done it by now.

Oh yes, what I say here is public, too. It cuts both ways.

73:

This is like no pub I ever wandered into...

74:

Yeah. I wonder what I have to do to get a pint of beer around here?

75:

Graham @70 - It's a non-exclusive license, so why not undercut Charlie by offering your words to the publishers (or better yet, their arch-rivals) but slightly cheaper?

I'll note that some kind of robot auto-content-harvester stole a blog post of mine to put on their auto-generated-blog that actually sold relationship counselling guides and courses. I asked them to remove it, never got a reply and forgot about it until now. If they'd been a real human being interested in the post and attributed it to me, I'd have been happy to let them copy as much of it as they wanted. Robots selling relationship counselling? No thanks.

76:

Neil @70 - you've Schrödinger catted my plan, now revealed its state has been disclosed. I was 'going' to sell all these snippets from famous writers blogs to Wired magazine as a set of quotes [Charlie last time you appeared in Wired magazine I made $5]. You'll be amazed at what you can extract from an unsuspecting writer through a blog on a Monday night, heady from a slice of positive national press gush. [Great artice by the way].

77:

Mats @16 10 years in too old/big to drag and by then you have the confidence and experience to say NO. For a long time my brother and I were bribed with marzipan and glacé cherry scones on return from Sunday night Mass. Before that as no one had explained social engineering to me, and I couldn't express what_was_wrong_with_this_picture.

78:

But what if we're not the author of the comment, and the poster stole our name?

I became an atheist at six, but then my folks were fundamentalist Christians. I had to pretend to be a Christian because my father already hurt me physically and emotionally every day and I was pretty sure he'd kill me if I told him I was an atheist. So when I was 13 and sitting in the balcony of the church, whispering with my best friend, the pastor looked up at us and said, not only over the mic but over the radio, "Marilee and Chris, if you can't pay attention, at least be quiet." That only stopped us for a bit, though, and we still email. I stopped pretending when I left home. Or was kicked out. Depends how you think about it.

JamesPadraicR @30, the a- prefix only means "not," it doesn't mean against. "Anti" means against.

Charlie, your doctor lets you eat bacon!?

79:

AndrewG @ 39 The Scottish Enlightenment might have something to do with it. The ideas of the SE and emigres with that culture of ideas played a formative role in the USA.

80:

Charlie@68 - I guess I don't share my optimism. But, well, the memes they are a-catching.

And @69 - Thank goodness there's no submit button =).

And @73 - My, wouldn't that by nice. PubSpace?

81:

me@79 - He means "submit" in the CGI sense, me.

82:

Charlie founds Bacon-Sandwich-Every-Day-ianism!

So there's a priest and a rabbi sitting on a train.

And the priest eyes the rabbi, and says "Excuse me, but I have to check - your religious beliefs forbid eating bacon, is that correct?"

And the rabbi says "Yes, that's right."

And the priest says "Well, how do you know what you're missing? Have you ever tried it?"

And the rabbi says "Well, I have to admit that I have lapsed and tried it once."

And the priest says "Ahhh..." and settles down smugly.

So the rabbi pipes up and says "And you - your beliefs forbid sex, do they not?"

And the priest looks shifty and says "Um, yes."

And the rabbi raises an eyebrow and looks at him.

And the priest hangs his head and says "Yes, alright, you have me. I was weak once and gave in to temptation."

And the rabbi says "Ahhh...". And then grins evilly and says "Better than bacon, isn't it?"

83:

#38 RandolphCarter, I'm sooo glad I didn't have a mouthful of fluid when I read that.

I have a washable flexi keyboard, but I'm drinking beer and it's hard to clean up.

And Charlie, hear hear! It is your house and I'll keep the peace.

84:

On the subject of religion--

As a child, I was sent to a Jewish summer camp, more for cultural than religious reasons. By the time I was old enough for my bat mitzvah I was quite adamant about not having one, so I was shocked and discomfited when I found myself actually enjoying the services and mealtime prayers.

Then I realized I wasn't actually getting the intended point of the services; I just liked the sound of several hundred people singing together. I think there's quite a few atheists and agnostics who still attend church/temple/whatever largely due to the nice feeling of being part of something.

As I said at the time: "This is great, but why do they have to drag God into it?"

85:

my blog is ... archived by the British Library

You have to admit, that's pretty cool.

86:

Re clause 7: the default license on the contents of my blog and website is Creative Commons non-commercial, remix, copy (unless otherwise marked because I keep the rights to some of my photos); I tend to think of my postings the same way. If you want 'em, have fun.

Leftness: happens I'm far left for a USian, probably somewhat left of LDP, though not the flaming revolutionary I was when I was younger. I was a red diaper kid in a family of Communists and hard-left Socialists, so it's been kind of disconcerting watching the US swing hard right over the last 20 years or so. Not only is US center way right of Europe, it's way right of what the US center used to be. I think there's enough elastic there that we'll be snapping back a little of the way soon, but I'm not optimistic we'll get it all back.

Primer: agreed, it rocks. It's one of a very few movies or TV programs with a time travel theme where the writer bothered to think through the consequences of traveling in time. Let's see: 12 Monkeys, Jumanji (requires a different view of the nature of time than the others, but makes its own kind of sense), and one recent episode of Doctor Who: "Blink".

Organization is to religion as meetings are to art.

87:

Bruce: the reason this blog is not CC licensed is that I sometimes write rather long essays here, some of which may, at some point, end up being collected in book form and published as such (modulo a little bit of editing).

If that ever happens, they won't disappear from my blog or anything -- but I'd rather know where they were published online, thank you very much, before trying to sort out a publishing deal. (On the other hand, if I ever publish such a book, as it'd almost certainly be a small press thing, I'd push very hard indeed for the whole thing to be available under creative commons on the web, either on the day of publication, or within a very short time thereafter. And it'd be just my work; I wouldn't be republishing your or anyone else's comments.)

88:

JvP@62, Luke @65, I don't consider Primer like Accelerando because of the tech level or the milieu: obviously that's utterly different. They're similar because they both take 'not patronizing the reader' to an extreme I've never seen before: they assume that readers/viewers are geniuses or at least know how to google well :) and that's such a rare attitude that, after your head stops hurting, it's quite refreshing.

89:

The seventh moderation policy clause, of course, is true of *everything* you *ever* put on the web for any reason whatsoever, on this blog or anywhere else: you should always assume that what you write is effectively permanent, may always pop up somewhere or other even years after you've repudiated it, and so on.

(This is why I've always considered talking about one's sexual predilictions without at least the protection of a pseudonym to be unwise. And no this is *not* why I use one :) )

btw, submitting two comments in a five minute period seems like it shouldn't be enough to trigger a 'comment submission failed' message to me. (But it just did.) I not a spammer, honest!

90:

Nix: the timeout's set at 180 seconds, but I'm thinking of reducing it a little. (It doesn't stop the persistent trolls, anyway -- but it seems to bore the spammers, which is good.)

Yes, policy #7 ought to go without saying -- but it bears repeating: not everyone on the net thinks things through. (If they did? I wouldn't need a moderation policy.)

Update: I just dropped the comment throttling period from 180 seconds to 90 seconds. If there's an uptick in comment spam I'll reconsider this, but for now it ought to make posting in multiple threads a little less painful.

91:

Charlie @ 87

Just to be clear, I wasn't suggesting that you should CC your work; only saying that's what I've done with mine. I don't try to make a living from my writing, so the particular license I use isn't usually an issue for me; your case is obviously different. I love it when you make your work available on the web; it's the only access I've got to many of your short stories; but I'm hardly in a position to insist on it, nor would I do anything so impolite.

92:

Bruce @ 86:
It seems to me that "Labor" has been losing influence on the US Left for years. That may be why it seems the Left as changed a lot to you, Labor is a major focus of Socialism. The current left seems to be a mix of pacifism, environmentalism, civil rights, and what could be broadly termed "Progressivism". Economics seems to be a bit up in the air right now, especially trade policy.

I was raised in I suppose what might be called a progressive Democrat family, but I'm the black sheep and became a libertarian. Which means everyone points and laughs at me for wasting my vote. :)

The mainstream conservative movement in the US saw it's biggest change in the 80s, when Religions Populism became a major force. Before that conservatives where more traditionalists who were willing to take a laissez faire attitude toward a lot of things. The compromise in the Republican party has been the Religions Populists giving up their economic populism in order to get their social agenda passed and the older conservatives allowing a religious social agenda in exchange for their economic policies. The Republicans have a reputation as being warmongers, but apart from a large military they aren't really that eager to get involved in wars. The current war hides that fact, but if you look back you'll see a strong opposition in the past.

Now, if the US had a system like the UK, each of these factions would be their own political party. The US parties are basically institutionalized coalitions of smaller parties under a single banner, each claiming to be the true Democrats or Republicans.

93:

@88:

That is actually the reason why I started reading the Economist. (Content is available on their webpage without registration for free these days.) In March or April last year they had a series of articles about subprime mortgages (that was before everyone was obsessed about them), I read it and at some point I just had to admit to myself that I had no idea what the hell they were talking about in between all the collateralized debt obligations, structured investment vehicles, credit default swaps etc. I didn't miss a single economist ever since. This attitude of not dumbing down the content to accommodate the readership is really rare these days. (Of course, none of this means that I'd subscribe to all the ideas of the economist, just that they seem to make an effort to explain their opinions more fully than one could dream of in other newspapers.)

94:

Charlie@74 - Or a steak and chips.

95:

Mr. Stross @21: You will, I'm sure, be dreadfully amused that when I googled for RSGB, all of the top links were for the Radio Society of Great Britain. Apparently Reform has finally been wholly assimilated into secular pursuits?

96:

Sadly, the need for Mr. Stross to post this is yet another indication that "common sense" is grossly misnamed.

97:

The Republicans have a reputation as being warmongers, but apart from a large military they aren't really that eager to get involved in wars. The current war hides that fact, but if you look back you'll see a strong opposition in the past.

Eh? Would it be the strong Republican opposition to war which kept the US from invading Grenada in '83 and Panama in '89, prevented us from mining Nicaragua's Corinto harbor, and kept us out of the first Gulf war with Iraq? That's some powerful pacifism there.

98:

Turtle32 @ 84
Despite being Jewish, I spent 13 years at an Anglican girl's school and absolutely loved singing hymns. I felt a tad guilty about singing about Jesus, but enjoyed belting out the songs, none the less. I still can't hear part of Holst's Planet Suite (Jupiter?) without finding myself wanting to sing "I vow to thee my country.."

Charlie wrote: "in my opinion, the folks who hold religious opinions and aren't conflicted are the dangerous ones."

I totally agree. I spend time reading www.fstdt.com, where I find myself agreeing with the atheists most of the time, because the fundies are really scary in their dogged dogma. Yet I can't get away from believing. My relationship with YHWH generally consists of telling Him where he screwed up, yet I feel love for Him. I'm definitely as conflicted as they come.

99:

This bit on virtual conversations, by the estimable TNH, is always worth citing when talk turns to comments and moderation policies. The one-jerk limit is a particularly good suggestion.

100:

Clifton @ 97: I'm not saying that they're pacifists, just that they're reluctant to get into wars and foreign adventures. Isolationist is the term that usually used. And all of those things you mention occurred during time when the Democrats controlled Congress.

In fact, if I'm remembering right most wars and conflicts during the past century were started during times when the Democrats were in power.

Perhaps the parties are going through a realignment phase though, when past policies are abandoned. After all, the Republicans were brought to power by Lincoln at a time when the Democrats were best known for radical States Rights and racism. :)

101:

Marilee @ 78 - Point taken, I suppose the prefix for against should be an-, but I guess my statement stands. I definitely think that 'atheist' is better than something silly like 'brights'. I tend to favor Dr. Jonathan Miller's 'Disbelief'.

102:

I meant to add that I thought of another example of a well-known Jewish Atheist: Isaac Asimov.

103:

Nix @89

Discretion is a good idea

Indiscretions are more fun.

104:

JamesPadraicR @101, sorry, "an-" is also just "not." You need the "anti-" to be against. I've never heard of "brights," but I'm not fond of "disbelief." That establishes a belief to not believe. I'd rather say I just don't believe in gods, ETs on earth, angels, fairies, etc. (In fact, here in the South, I usually say first "I'm a godless heathen" which makes them laugh and then when they realize what I mean, they aren't angry. You tell folks down here you're an atheist, they react as if you're calling them godless.)

105:

This discussion on what kind of atheist are you is amusing. Are there any atheist atheists out there rather than Catholic, Jewish … atheists? Not that I consider myself a Catholic atheist. God Forbid. (Maybe with a small c.)

106:

maggie, you mean atheists reared by atheists? I know people like that, but I don't think they read here.

107:

Marilee Yes. I like the 'godless heathen' line. Tho if you tried it here most people wouldn't know what you were talking about.
What I was really suggesting was; how does ones early upbringing effect the conscious decisions one makes later? Someone brought up in a faith makes a rejection of behaviour even is they never believed, and that is what is observed and criticised by their community. They end up with the same understanding as atheists reared by atheists, but the latter don't have the 'coming out' process.
I was also alluding to the North Irish phenomena, when if you weren't christian you still had to have an opinion and position on the Troubles. The fact that we state we are atheists is more important than were we come from isn't it?

108:

So, when do you get the Filthy Assistants?

109:

maggie, I think what we believe is definitely more important than where we come from. Sometimes the coming is an interesting story, whether it's a place or a belief, but it's not as important to the discussion.

110:

Oh god, Liberal Democrat? Charlie, come for a pint and let's talk about them.

111:

James: it's a good enough match for my views -- especially in light of the buffet of rancid shit on offer from other major UK political parties -- but doubtless the closer they get to any actual possibility of achieving real power at a national level, the further I'll diverge from them.

112:

Hi Charlie, thanks for replying to a comment that could have been more polite.

The problem is that, as far as I know, you live in Scotland where we did indeed put up with Liberal Democrat Ministers for eight years.

Down south, acting as opposition, they complained about excess Tory then Labour roadbuilding programmes, while up here a Lib Dem transport minister forced through the M74 extension through Glasgow and the Aberdeen Western Peripheral, a totally counter-productive scheme through some very unspoilt landscapes.

Similarly, they opposed GM crops in London, then a Lib Dem Agriculture Minister approved the planting of same, in the constituency of their then leader, no less.

On ID cards, they appear to fight the good fight, but up here they abstained.

I work in politics (as you'll see from my link), so I'm biased. But one thing unites all the other parties in Holyrood (I had this conversation with a Tory MSP last week): the Liberal Democrats are the uniquely dishonest party in the UK. I think (and the Tory thought) that there are excellent reasons for backing all the other parties, from his to mine, but neither of us could think of a single issue the Liberals have been any good on.

On the Iraq war, for one more example, they claimed to oppose the war, but their real position was that a bullied, bribed and cajoled Security Council decision would suffice to make it a Good Idea. Robert Brown, one of their Glasgow lot, tried to make this point to a peace march and the march collectively gave him an alternative view.

So I'm still curious, what makes you feel differently? And how about a pint in the Parliament's bar sometime to discuss?

113:

James: as a political outsider, their written and overt policy initiatives are all I get to go by. Nor is it obvious (from the outside) just how much of the output of a coalition government -- as the last one up here was -- can be blamed on one participant or another.

114:

Hi Charlie,
I think the coalition question is very straight-forward. Both parties are entirely responsible for all the output, as both have decided that said output is worth it on balance. There's no other way of judging it.

The decision for a coalition partner is the same as it is for an individual taking part in decisions by a Cabinet government - stay, if you support the programme on balance, or go, if that balance isn't good enough for you.

And in any case, on all those issues with the possible exception of ID cards, those appalling decisions remain the party's position in opposition.

Would it be useful if I started providing links? I'm also reluctant to second-guess what issues are of most interest to you, though, beyond the civil liberties stuff you mentioned above. This conversation would be more interesting and easier to make progress on over a light refreshment.

So that pint (at the 3rd time of asking) is still on offer.

115:

I think the coalition question is very straight-forward. Both parties are entirely responsible for all the output, as both have decided that said output is worth it on balance. There's no other way of judging it.

Er, no.

That's rather glossing over the electoral calculus: "if I throw my toys out of the pram, and the result is a vote of no confidence and this goes on to trigger an eletion, then what is the likely outcome for my party?"

The decision for a coalition partner is the same as it is for an individual taking part in decisions by a Cabinet government - stay, if you support the programme on balance, or go, if that balance isn't good enough for you.

That's what it looks like, going into a coalition. Once you're in it, though, new situations emerge over time -- and you have to participate in policy-making on the fly, with the cocked pistol (outlined above) pointing at your head if you get it wrong.

(The pint offer is probably worth taking up some time -- prod me via the email feedback form -- but I'm out of the UK for 4 of the next 6 weeks.)

((I'm closing the comments on this thread now, because it's been up for a month and the blog spam is beginning to roll inexorably in -- it's not a response to the current discussion, it's because of the guy in the corner with a megaphone selling V1AGRA!!!))

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