This entry does not address an issue related to pseudo-medicine, but will likely inform future decisions related to the site and how it will be run.

Anyone who spends time on the web is aware that there are some, well, interesting people who excel at disrupting conversations. We call them trolls and one will probably descend on this site in the future.

 Maybe not, as I hope the sign up process, which requires giving personal information, is the first bridge of defense. A troll bridge as it were. I am probably overly optimistic, but as a rule, cockroaches do not light.

But if trolls do turn up on the site, it is nice to know they can be banned without worrying overmuch. To judge from a recent paper, Trolls just want to have fun, trolls are not good people:

In two online studies (total N = 1215), respondents completed personality inventories and a survey of their Internet commenting styles. Overall, strong positive associations emerged among online commenting frequency, trolling enjoyment, and troll identity, pointing to a common construct underlying the measures. Both studies revealed similar patterns of relations between trolling and the Dark Tetrad of personality: trolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, using both enjoyment ratings and identity scores. Of all personality measures, sadism showed the most robust associations with trolling and, importantly, the relationship was specific to trolling behavior. Enjoyment of other online activities, such as chatting and debating, was unrelated to sadism. Thus cyber-trolling appears to be an Internet manifestation of everyday sadism.

One of the nice about medicine is that all sorts of people get ill and you get to meet them, but you do not have to go home and have dinner with them. I have taken care of many with the Dark Tetrad over the years, and it is interesting to see them identified on the internet as well.

The world is fortunate they are minority, accounting for 5.6% of those interviewed in the study, but a disruptive minority.

Overall, the authors found that the relationship between sadism and trolling was the strongest, and that indeed, sadists appear to troll because they find it pleasurable. “Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others,” they wrote. “Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!”

So for those who run websites it is good to know that a troll can be removed with no guilt.  Science can help inform judgements.

Not always so great
Points of Interest: 2/17/2014

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