University of Virginia Blockaded!

dsewell writes: Anyone trying to reach Cvillenews.com from a *.virginia.edu host today is greeted with the following message:

Access Denied
Access to cvillenews.com from all of the University of Virginia is temporarily denied. This is because of the actions of several users that have been abusing the site quite extensively for the past few months, to the point at which it’s made it impossible to continue to provide access to virginia.edu.

So in theory I shouldn’t even be posting this news item. Luckily I still have a nonexpired account on one of the few ISPs to offer shell accounts, so I am clunkily reading Cvillenews using the good old Lynx browser.


Anyway, what happens to a community discussion board when its largest participant is out of the game? Is this censorship? Or is it more accurate to label as de facto censors the idiots that are causing problems?

07/11/02 Update: virginia.edu has been unblocked.

31 Responses to “University of Virginia Blockaded!”


  • I’m not at all happy about it myself. Call it censorship, call it whatever you like, but I call it good time management. In the past month, I’ve spent more time dealing with trolls (well, troll) than on any other aspect of the site. It’s just not worth the time at this point. They’re all coming from a single person (and a couple of friends) at UVa. I’ve filed a complaint with UVa, and I hope to get some satisfaction from them before too long. The goal is for them to prevent this internally, as per their acceptable use policy. Between now and then, I just don’t have the time for this. Early yesterday evening, they were coming in at the rate of one per minute.

    This is a temporary measure, one that will hopefully last very little time. Anybody that wants to hurry this along (or, better yet, has a position of some influence at UVa) would do well to contact abuse@virginia.edu, referring to ticket #uva02070025.

  • This is great, Waldo! Kinda throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but if the water stinks so bad, who needs the baby!

  • Yeah but exactly what badness has the troll been up to? Not that I mind the service denial. I don’t buy into the simple-minded censorship/anti-censorship dictomy since all of us choose what to read. Refusing to waste one’s time and attention on trash isn’t censorship. It is good judgment.

    Still one would want to know what the editor calls abuse. If it is pestiferous teasing, or smut, or spam–well and good. But if it is called abuse when somebody wants to post an article saying “Democrats caught with hand in cookie jar” then that is something else.

  • please explain in laymans terms what is going on.

  • the sense i’m getting here is that each post that is coming in is looked at…and some person using a uva computer is sending posts or emails every minute…which just gums up the works and takes up waldo’s time. so the subject becomes irrelevant, its the enormity of the volume that takes precedence.

  • Still one would want to know what the editor calls abuse. If it is pestiferous teasing, or smut, or spam–well and good.

    Examples:

    “Jizz in your ear bitch-ass Cavarati!”

    “What a bunch of bitches. I particularly like the following words: whorish, eunuch, pussies and anally.”

    “I heard that Rolph financed that band Cumtowel.”

    “Bullshit fuckface. Eat a cock.”

    This is just several of hundreds. If you have some weird desire to see more, read either of these stories from yesterday [1, 2] with your threshold at -1.

    Like I said: life’s too short.

  • People at UVa post a whole lot of stupid things. I spend lots of times rating stupid things down to -1 so that people don’t have to deal with them. I asked UVa to stop people from posting stupid things. No answer yet. So I temporarily block UVa. No more stupid things.

  • If you want to see what the troll has been up to, set your threshold to -1 and go back over a few of the recent news threads.

    He/They have just been obscene, obviously trying to do nothing more than cause trouble.

    In fact, their whole goal was undoubtedly to cause exactly this response… banning of virginia.edu. They’ve succeeded at it in the past too.

  • In fact, their whole goal was undoubtedly to cause exactly this response… banning of virginia.edu. They’ve succeeded at it in the past too.

    That’s the worst part: there’s no technological solution that doesn’t involve a concession of some sort. Can’t win either way.

  • Tom, identified in his e-mail as the UVa postmaster (as in e-mail, not the USPS :), e-mailed me a few minutes ago to let me know that they’re working on this. I wrote back and asked that they let me know when they reach a conclusion to their investigation, and to let me know what it is.

  • This is motivation to upgrade your portal software, and start requiring registration to post… right? Right? ;)

    The bummer would be that to be effective, you have to start requiring valid email addresses to register, and start making the ol’ sign-up process more painful.

    Anonymity is overrated anyways. Privacy is what’s truly important.

  • Excellent! I hope that he is sincere in his effort. Not to mention effective.

    Being responsible for your behavior online shouldn’t be any different than being responsible for your behavior in public.

  • This is motivation to upgrade your portal software, and start requiring registration to post… right? Right? ;)

    You bet. I’ve been having trouble with the Apache RPMs, but I’ll win in the end. :)

    The bummer would be that to be effective, you have to start requiring valid email addresses to register, and start making the ol’ sign-up process more painful.

    It’s so easy to make throw-away accounts via hotmail.com and msn.com that this is only a partial solution. But it’s a great start.

  • It’s so easy to make throw-away accounts via hotmail.com and msn.com that this is only a partial solution. But it’s a great start.

    That’s true, which is why many places no longer accept hotmail, yahoo, excite, lycos, msn, or any other easy free-email services.

    With the option to keep your email address private from all but the admin on a particular site, giving a “real” address shouldn’t be that big of a deal for most honest people.

    Hopefully.

  • Refusing to waste one’s time and attention on trash isn’t censorship. It is good
    judgment.

    I tend to agree. The depressing thing is how many people there are who think the First Amendment means that any enforced community norms on online posting behavior are fascistic.

    Back in the mid-90s I was active in the “Usenet Wars” over spamming, crossposting, Netiquette, and so on. (Do some Google searches on "net kooks", "speedbump boursy", "john grubor", and "dave hayes" "freedom knights" for some background.)
    Usenet newsgroups came close to dying as an effective means of communication at the height of the concerted attacks on their functioning, and the conclusion a lot of rational people came to was that communication-jamming from “below” is just as much a form of censorship as top-down repression.

    On the whole, I think anonymity has been more of a bad thing than a good thing for the Net. For every time it has enabled one person to speak truth without fear of retribution, it has enabled hundred of people to be spammers, trolls, and hatemongers without fear of consequences.

  • Back in the mid-90s I was active in the “Usenet Wars” over spamming, crossposting, Netiquette, and so on. (Do some Google searches on “net kooks”, “speedbump boursy”, “john grubor”, and “dave hayes” “freedom knights” for some background.) Usenet newsgroups came close to dying as an effective means of communication at the height of the concerted attacks on their functioning, and the conclusion a lot of rational people came to was that communication-jamming from “below” is just as much a form of censorship as top-down repression.

    A fellow fallen Usenet soldier! dsewell, I salute you. :) The phrase “MAKE.MONEY.FAST” still makes me want to break things. Unfortunately, I bailed on Usenet around 1995. I still post occasionally, but whatever e-mail address that I use is so quickly overwhelmed with spam that I just don’t see the point. Usenet is a classic case of a few jerks ruining it for everybody.

  • First, to be clear, there have been up to six of us (perhaps more, but I can’t keep track) who have been involved at one point or another in posting on the various topics that Waldo has deemed verboten. Not that it is important, but, hey, perhaps accuracy counts.

    Second, from what I can see, cvillenews.com has no terms of service. Not that there aren’t Internet norms or uva conditions, perhaps, but, cvillenews itself has no rules. In fact, Waldo has alluded to that in the past — letting us know that we can feel free to post what we want, and that he will just -1 it out of normal browsing existance.

    Third, and this is mostly hearsay, there is a collection of readers who look solely for our posts at least as large as the collection of posters. In fact, I’ve yet to meet someone informed of the fact that reading at -1 gives you much more of the verboten postings that hasn’t been enthused at the prospect of going back and re-reading all discussions. Of course, I understand that the vast majority of the normal users of this board don’t thrill themselves at the possibility of reading our posts, but there are at least some people out there who do.

    Fourth, a concession. Waldo has won! He won from the start. We never were going to continue this indefinitely. Even we, with apparently little going on, were going to get bored eventually. I’m not sure if this particular UVA blockade would have been the end, but the end was surely coming one way or the other. It couldn’t have been all too much longer. Feel collective relief.

    Fifth, I can’t say that it is entirely clear what is objected to. Is it the language? The inside comments? The criticism of Waldo? Perhaps some blend of all three? I don’t know where this one a minute stuff comes from — I defy anyone to find a stretch of even twenty minutes where that is the case. Plus, how hard is it to change something to -1? Goodness.

    Sixth, and most important, at least for me, the rationale. I know that some (who am I kidding, most) of you really could care less about rationale. But, perhaps there is someone out there who does. There is certainly someone out there who should.

    To be absolutely, completely clear, without a doubt: the point of this, at least for me, is NOT to get UVA banned and is NOT to post these messages. Though those things certainly have happened, and are in fact perhaps the tools of my ultimate aim, I have just been responding with a truly-felt umbrage to a crude and insensitive treatment at the hands of Waldo and one particular other user.

    I am certainly willing to concede that the issue that Waldo was so rude about so long ago was perhaps one on which I was wrong. I certainly still believe myself to be in the right, but, everyone can and does make mistakes from time to time. My problem was with the rudeness of Waldo’s dismissal and the apparent hubris he showed in rubbing my face in the fact that he would purposefully single ME out, no matter the content. There was no explanation, no discussion, nothing.

    So, if what I wanted was Waldo’s attention, it seems I’ve won. And if Waldo wanted was for me to stop, as I said earlier, he will eventually win if he hasn’t already. So, it looks like everybody is a winner! Things could not have come to a better close.

  • For myself, if Waldo had been even remotely polite before or had even brusquely addressed me, or if Waldo had perhaps politely requested a cease to this thing, instead of declaring himself and his web-page untouchable (well, touchable but in only piddling ways), almost assuredly none of this would have happened.

    I am not blaming Waldo here at all, but I am suggesting that there might be a better way to deal with such problems in the future.

    In all my time reading thesabre.com (another Charlottesville-related message board), a board with many times the number of users and a much more contentious lot, I’ve never seen the hate and annoyance that I’ve seen here, and I’ve certainly never seen Boardhost get so dictatorial to ban virginia.edu or anything along those lines.

  • First, to be clear, there have been up to six of us (perhaps more, but I can’t keep track) who have been involved at one point or another in posting on the various topics that Waldo has deemed verboten.

    Topics? There are no topics. There’s never been a topic. It’s just garbage.

    Third, and this is mostly hearsay, there is a collection of readers who look solely for our posts at least as large as the collection of posters.

    Six people? Well, maybe the twelve of you should get together a start a discussion board. Or, better yet, use the chalkboard. Or I’ll give you a mailing list. I’m doing all I can for you. Never let it be said that I haven’t provided plenty of venues for free and open expression.

    Plus, how hard is it to change something to -1? Goodness.

    Changing one message to -1 is easy. Changing dozens that come in constantly? It sucks. It means that I have to monitor the boards for garbage, rather than reading interesting comments, putting up more news, or spending time on life outside of this site. It means that visiting cvillenews.com ceases to be something that I do out of pleasure, but as a chore. And that sucks.

    Your statement is akin to telling starving African children to stop complaining about the swarms of flies covering their bodies: you just have to swat the fly!

    I am certainly willing to concede that the issue that Waldo was so rude about so long ago was perhaps one on which I was wrong. I certainly still believe myself to be in the right, but, everyone can and does make mistakes from time to time. My problem was with the rudeness of Waldo’s dismissal and the apparent hubris he showed in rubbing my face in the fact that he would purposefully single ME out, no matter the content. There was no explanation, no discussion, nothing.

    How about a link or something? I am almost always extremely polite on cvillenews.com, with very few exceptions that spring to mind. Given that you post anonymously from a large pool of addresses at UVa, it would be really quite difficult for me to single you out.

    This is amazing. You’ve staged a months-long trollfest because I once said something mean to you, although you were admittedly in the wrong? Why didn’t you e-mail me or call me, or perhaps find some more rational way of indicating your frustration?

    Am I to take this post as an indication that I can un-block virginia.edu now? My logs record that today alone, 53 separate people from UVa have been blocked from visiting the site. It would be nice to be able to fix that.

  • Your first paragraph is nice. Accuracy is a good thing.

    Your second paragraph is quibbling and justification. “He can just -1 it out of existence.” That’s the same excuse spammers use, “They can just hit delete!” And is equally false. Yes, one -1 isn’t a big deal. At some point, though the hassle of numbers outweighs the relative ease of dealing with a single offensive event.

    Your third paragraph is silly. I don’t believe there’s any “silent crowd” that enjoys what you and those with you were doing.

    Fourth, Waldo won. Yay! If you and your buddies are going to stop trashing the board, then we’ve all won. This is a phenomenon very well-known on the internet… it’s called self-regulation. That means when the powers-that-be find out a user (or users) of their system is causing their whole domain to be blocked from a wanted resource, they take action to put a stop to abuse. Self-regulation is beautiful when it works.

    Fifth, grow up. You’re like my 7 year old son that says “What did I do?” while trying to ignore the spaghetti sauce he painted on the walls. You intentionally set out to abuse your ability to post here, and ruin whatever experience you could for Waldo and/or the users of this site. And if you walk into Taco Bell and start hurling refried beans at the walls, you’ll find yourself rewarded for your actions in an equally appropriate manner.

    Sixth (and finally), the means do not justify the ends. Again, grow up.

    I mentioned once before that I’ve had lots of experience administrating/policing web boards and IRC servers in the past, and there are those whose only purpose is to see how far they can go to ruin it for others. Imagined slights, made-up offenses, and sheer maliciousness are par for the course.

    If you want other people to view you in a reasonable light, I’ll give you this very simple piece of advice, that will serve you here and everywhere else you go, “Be reasonable.”

    If you act like a spoiled child, don’t be surprised when you get treated like one.

  • Just exactly what are your comments that are pissing off Waldo and UVA?

  • There are topics, whether you like it or not, and there is information in there. Some of it is more difficult to retrieve and almost all of it is cloaked to some extent, but we are definitely not the only group passing inside jokes on these boards.

    More importantly, Waldo, I never admitted to being wrong. I admitted to the fact that I could possibly been wrong — I still believe strongly that I was in the right. The case was that then, as throughout, you were so anxious not only to throw the posts out but also to insult those posting that you offended someone at perhaps an inopportune time.

    I apologize, as well, for not finding a link. I just don’t really have the time or the desire. There are a lot of posts on here and I don’t want to wade through it all.

    How can you say that this isn’t rational? As I see it, things so far have worked out incredibly well. My friends and I, and an audience of more than a handful, have amused ourselves for months with your implicit permission. Not only that, but everyone reading has surely detected some animosity. Finally, the only really desired result, attention — we got it. It seems to me that every little thing that we could have possibly wanted we got.

    And why would I e-mail you when you told me, with no hesitation, that there was to be no discussion, that you were going to be arbitrary, and that you were going to single me in particular out for the treatment? You were far from the sort of character one could possibly converse with.

    Unblock UVA whenever you want.

    Also, I have no idea which posts in the first story you linked to was from us. I recognize none of that.

    And in reply to Lafe:

    I know you might not believe it, but there are people who find this amusing. There are people who read -1 on purpose just to see what we’ve been up to. This board is not entirely filled with witty yet civilized commentators like yourself.

    Self-regulation mumbo-jumbo? I dunno. It seems like you all just blocked the UVA people that you want to post here. After all, aren’t you all always complaining about the UVA-townie disconnect? I suppose you’re right about self-regulation, but, man, it seems like things aren’t working quite perfectly.

    I also remind you that none of this occurred until Waldo told us, essentially, that we could do what we like, he’d just -1 us. So, it is more like when you, not surprisingly, hit your kid, tell him he can complain about being hit, and then punish your kid for complaining when the neighbors ask you why your kid is so obnoxious. Waldo told us to do this — I guess he just didn’t think that we’d cry so loud.

    By the way, if you knew me, you’d know that I’d never order refried beans at Taco Bell. Smushy foods, dude, smushy foods. Can’t stand ‘em.

    I praise you for your In-ter-net experience. I am befuddled by terms like IRC. But, the slights, even if imagined (which they weren’t), sure resulted in a huge mess. I suppose if the likes of us (“the Outsiders”) are such a constant, it would be up to good board design and moderation to be prepared to handle us — perhaps in a way that doesn’t bring it to the full attention of the whole place every month or so.

    The means are the ends. For all your experience on the In-ter-net, you seem to have lost the ability to read the total package. The means are the ends, in essence. The medium is the message.

    Also, given that the assumption I am going on here is that the people here aren’t reasonable, why would I want them to view me reasonably? What the hell would that mean? I just want Waldo to pay attention (and to tell a bunch of “The Outsiders”-style jokes in the meantime).

    Perhaps the problem with this board (and the In-ter-net generally) is that the proliferation of message boards creates all sorts of positions of power and there just aren’t sufficient numbers of reasonable and clear-thinking people to run them. Everything is about perspective, Mssr. Lafe.

  • As far as I’ve been told, the mere fact of my posting a comment pisses Waldo off, regardless of the content.

    So, I suppose this comment would be an example of a comment that pisses Waldo off.

    UVA, on the other hand, who knows. I haven’t really heard of any rules they have against being off-topic or declaring Geddy Lee the best bass player ever.

  • This is nonsense. All of these justification posts border on meaninglessness; so many words are used, but so little is said. It’s like conversing with a belligerent seven-year-old. I’ll tell you what: if you’re so eager to follow rules, why don’t you e-mail me from your UVa account so I have your name, and I’ll send a cease-and-desist to you? That shouldn’t be a problem, right?

  • Im reading this post, and Im thinking: Ted? Ted . . . Kaczynski.

    I mean, there’s the utterly tedious writing of the manifesto; the oft-repeated claim of representing more persons than just one (Teds “Freedom Club”, and this trolls perhaps/probably fictitious six or more friends who make up “the Outsiders”); the so-obviously deeply felt paranoia about (perceived) tyranny; the delusion that “their” thinking and greviances, once presented, would appeal to others and find their favor . . . and so on.

    All of this would be interesting (+3, Waldo?!) if it werent just a simple pathology a common Internet one, as “dsewel” points out, as well as the familiar psycho-social one.

    Finally, I’ll suggest to Waldo that he keep up with the technological solutions — including working with ITC, the Impending Upgrade, etc. — as it would be nave to think that the abuser(s) is/are rational or reliable enough to be capable of a “human” solution.

  • 1) To the knuckleheads who wish to ruin things for everyone: grow up.

    2) To Waldo: the immature reaction is to ban all of virginia.edu. The mature thing is to upgrade the site already, like you’ve been promising.

    I have no idea whether this started as a simple attack on Waldo, or just good ol’ fashioned abuse (see also: Tragedy of the Commons); I also have no idea whether this has continued/escalated because of Waldo having something against UVa students or the University, or just dodging the free speech/sane moderation conundrum that something like this presents. Either way, this situation could have been resolved quietly a while ago. Instead, it’s propogated as an inane tit-for-tat pissing match that’s probably annoyed the legitimate users of this system to the point of not wanting to return. Which is a true shame, since the heart of something like this is a damn good idea.

    While I used to think that this site was a great resource, it seems that neither the owner nor the malcontents seem to be willing to stop screwing the rest of us over. I have better uses for my time than to continue visiting a site that’s awash in immature “get Waldo/Waldo gets them” drivel.

  • 2) To Waldo: the immature reaction is to ban all of virginia.edu. The mature thing is to upgrade the site already, like you’ve been promising.

    I wouldn’t classify that as “immature.” I’m simply out of other solutions. If you have any suggestions, I eagerly welcome them.

    Upgrading the site is taking a tremendous amount of work — it’s not like installing a new version of Word. :) I’ve been writing a script to sort through the database and convert everything over to the format of the new system. (Otherwise, we’ll lose all of the old comments, stories, etc.) On top of that, I’m having a horrible time getting the new system installed. All told, I’d estimate that I’ve put at least 50 hours into that in the past two months. The first major step is completed: the server is in a new location, hence the week of downtime about a month ago.

    I’m doing all I can here. Like I said: if you have any suggestions in the way of a manner in which I can do things differently, I welcome them.

  • Waldo,

    As I am sure that you know who this is, at least in some sense, I won’t provide much of an introduction. I do feel that I was at some point, long ago now, actually mis-treated. However, as I’ve made my point and as I seem to be none too popular, you need no longer be concerned about posts from myself or the others I know — all of whom I’ve spoken with about discontinuing all of this. While I am sure that just about no one reading the message board agrees with me even in the slightest, I am equally sure that nothing I can say or do at this point will change that. I don’t think that I’d like to be even remotely associated with the cause of the stifling of so many other voices in town.

    I will leave you and the rest of cvillenews.com alone.

  • <i>the means do not justify the ends.</i>

    D’oh. Vice versa. End.. means…

    Always proof read to see if you any words out.

  • That’s the other thing with this type of fellow. The justifications never stop. Occasionally one will listen, but I think I’ve seen it happen, well, never.

    If he’s true to his word, and goes away (or at the least comes back pretending to be a different person), then that’s great.

    If not, then I highly encourage you to pursue your conversation with the UVA admin, because nothing else is likely to get through to him.

  • Just for history’s sake, here was The HooK’s article on this episode.

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