moderation in moderation
William “the Jar” Mason is a semi famous programmer. Mostly retired, but his website still has some classic postings from early days working on essential software tools like vi and lynx. Unzealous Association is a link aggregator popular among people who like to read Mason’s articles.
The trouble begins one day when wjm decides that UA sends too much traffic his way. Like a denial of service. And so wjm responds by redirecting anyone with a referer of UA to a picture of a roast ham. (This is probably an overreaction. It’s not really the UA users at fault, but the many aggressively stupid bots that scrape all linked sites. But it has the desired effect of keeping links to wjm’s site off the front page.)
This action is not without collateral damage. It’s not just that headline links disappear, but also less trafficked links in comments are affected. This then incites an unhelpful mini thread on UA about how the internet works.
The UA response is to autokill any comments linking to wjm. The comment is hidden from most users, but remains visible to the author without any indication of what went wrong. (Also Known as hellbanning, the nuclear option of troll containment.)
There are a couple other ways this could have played out. Possibly, if the UA software can detect wjm links in order to kill them, it could also skip adding the
<a> tags. Users who cut and paste the link don’t have referer headers. Problem solved. Another option might be to simply ride it out and see if the complaint threads dissipate. Maybe wjm will even change his mind some day.
Unfortunately, when all you have is a trollhammer, all you see are trolls.