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As some visitors may have noticed, over the last couple of days I’ve released some new software changes on the website, mostly associated with commenting.

(1) Commenter Authentication

There was a slightly worrisome development last week, namely the case of one or two individuals leaving comments under the names of other, regular commenters. Although the reason was apparently satire, for some time I’d been concerned that this sort of “false-flagging” might become common, endangering the nature of the commenting give-and-take. The heated emotions and occasional feuds between commenters might provide an incentive for the production of comments meant to discredit or embarrass opponents, perhaps eventually driving them away in irritation. This led me to quickly implement a security feature to prevent this.

As everyone knows, the emails required for comment publication are never published and may indeed be entirely fictional, with [email protected] being the sort of thing some people choose to use. However, these hidden emails serve a useful purpose by allowing a commenter to secretly authenticate his name-identity. Now when an individual attempts to leave a comment under a particular name, the system checks that the provided email corresponds to one of those regularly associated with that name, and blocks the comment with a warning message if it does not. This security feature is only provided to reasonably established commenters, individuals who have published at least 10 comments during the previous 30 days. Since some regular commenters tend to use two or three different emails, any of these is considered valid, and the security system is not implemented for the tiny number of regular commenters who simply use different, random emails each time. Except for software bugs, I’d think that 99% of commenters should not have even become aware that this security feature was added.

In effect, regular commenters now have their names reserved for their own personal use. Furthermore, the implementation of this simple name-security system has now allowed me to add some additional features linked to commenter identity.

(2) Agree/Disagree Options for Comments

For the last year or so, there’s been an ongoing debate over the benefits of implementing a simple Like/Dislike option for comments. On balance, the critics have tended to make the stronger case, arguing that any sort of displayed numerical results would simply lead to a greater degree of factionalism and “ideological gang warfare,” with endless efforts to boost positive and negative totals rather than providing useful arguments in the discussion. However, I’ve now tried to implement a system to minimize these risks while providing some of the benefits.

Instead of displaying numerical totals, my approach instead lists the names of individuals who have endorsed or opposed a particular comment, perhaps more useful since the opinion of one smart commenter is worth more than that of a multitude of ignorant ones. Commenters who have saved their names/emails via the “Remember Me” option will now see Agree and Disagree buttons next to each comment, and can immediately register their views by clicking those buttons, circumventing any moderation delay.

However, I’m still somewhat cautious about the positives and negatives of this feature, and have therefore implemented it gingerly, with a number of major restrictions. First, it is a privilege only extended to established commenters, individuals who have published at least 10 comments during the past month; this avoids drawing in a horde of “ringers” who visit only to support or attack a particular commenter. Second, to avoid an endless flurry of ill-considered Likes/Dislikes, I am also currently rationing use of the feature to just once each 24 hours, forcing individuals to carefully pick and choose which comments are worthy of their public opinion. Depending upon how matters, evolve I will certainly consider adjusting these restrictions in the future.

(3) RSS Feeds for Commenters

Over the years, commenters have published tens of millions of words on this website, and comments are often the most interesting aspects of an article’s page. The commenters themselves range from the intelligent and erudite to the deranged and ignorant, with the only point of disagreement being which are which. I’ve therefore now added an RSS Feed for all individual commenters, accessed via the commenter page. For example:

(4) Weekly Emailed Digest

Finally, I’m reactivating the option of a weekly emailed Digest, which I’d discontinued over a year ago. Individuals may subscribe by providing their email in the right hand column of the Home page.

(5) Additional Content

Software enhancements are nice, but content is king, and in the next few weeks I’m hoping to considerably expand the range of the content material published on our webzine.

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  1. Thank you thank you thank you.
    Also: Did I miss #3? 😉

    [Oops! — Ron]

  2. Just wondering in light of the Grand Jury subpoena issued to over the identity of some of their commenters, if this site logs IP addresses and if so, how frequently (or infrequently) are the logs purged?

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  3. Grumpy says: has the best comment-section features on the Internet.

  4. Grand Jury subpoena issued to

    Good God, I hadn’t even heard of that. I do, however, always encourage everyone online to enjoy their freedom while it lasts. Powerful forces are arraying against it.

    Come to think of it, our best defense against depredations such as this would be for everyone to repeat the offense to the best of their ability. When you hear something ‘actionable’, repeat it!

    Of course, I’m not going first, mind you. And regarding IP logs and such, the *** shares all of our data with a foreign country, which I dare not name. In fact, why name the ***? Everyone knows who I mean 😉

  5. This is turning into an interesting experiment. I like it.

  6. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Milo Minderbinder

    This site does indeed log IP addresses.

    This is the reason I don’t pick a personal name and choose to use anonymous.

    • Replies: @Ron Unz
  7. Ron Unz says:

    I’ll admit I’m no great expert on Internet secrecy issues, but doesn’t *every* website log all IP addresses? Certainly all WordPress websites save IP addresses, but I assume that the NYT, HuffPost, and other websites do as well.

    I guess there are some exceptions, like that bitcoin/drug-dealer fellow. Though it didn’t help him all that much since he just received a life sentence for ordering several contract-killings…

    But on the other side, can anyone think of a person who wasn’t quite prominent in business or politics who ever got into serious trouble for spouting off on in the comments off a website? And if you’re so prominent that you have something to worry about, why not just buy an extra notebook for $300 or use that Tor thing?

    It seems to me that in 99% of the cases where people get into trouble, it’s because they Tweeted out a public message to their 50,000 followers…

  8. Harold says:

    First, it is a privilege only extended to established commenters, individuals who have published at least 10 comments during the past month

    Most iSteve commenters who have had their comments goldboxed wouldn’t meet this criterion. Many iSteve commenters who have been commenting for many years don’t tend to comment that frequently. I realise that this is preliminary, but even so, surely you can use a better metric for who is “established”. One that doesn’t exclude longtime pauca sed matura commenters.

  9. Svigor says:

    The site no longer works properly with Javascript turned off; when I load Steve Sailer’s blog and then load “older items” in a new tab, there’s a bunch of “items” missing from in between. E.g., “‘Monsters of Egotism’ Redux” from June 19 no longer shows up for me anywhere in those two tabs, but newer and older items do. The last item on the first page is “The Jewish Bob Hope: Al Capp,” from June 20, and the first item on the second page is “Keila Ravelo: Woman of Color,” from June 16. I suppose this has something to do with “infinite scrolling.”

  10. Svigor says:

    It would also be very nice to have a few minutes added to the comment editing time limit. Typically, when I turn on JavaScript and reload a page so I can correct a typo in a comment I’ve just made, time runs out before the widget becomes available. Occasionally I get 30 seconds or less to edit.

  11. Svigor says: has the best comment-section features on the Internet.

    I disagree. Disqus does a better job. It may take forever to load a Disqus thread, but once it does, I can edit my comments, and don’t have to reload it to view new comments.

    • Replies: @Hippopotamusdrome
  12. @Ron Unz

    I have to wonder though how often people get in touch with a private internet security consultant and ask them “what you can tell me about the user of this IP address?” before they sign a deal, invest in a small company or invite a new son-in-law into the family? How much data about the habits of particular IP addresses is out there to buy on the grey or black market?

    • Replies: @Ron Unz
  13. Apparently, I don’t have the “Remember My Information” button clicked, so this post is a cypher, intended to rectify that.

  14. Ron Unz says:

    The site no longer works properly with Javascript turned off

    Yes, my latest round of software changes added a lot of additional javascript-based systems so that full-page HTML caching could be implemented. Based on a few tests, the system could now easily handle a load 10x or even 20x what we currently get. But I’ll go through and try to build in some additional non-Javascript fall-backs to address some of those problems you noticed. Similarly, most of the nicest commenting features are Javascript-based, so you’re missing them.

    I’d just suggest you permanently enable Javascript, but I think you’ve mentioned that you’re stuck with a slow dial-up connection and the JS files take too long to load or something like that.

    But unless other people complain, I’m inclined to keep the five minute comment-edit window since I want to avoid having people modify their comments based on what other people are saying. Personally, I always just write my comment in notepad and copy-paste it in. There’s also the Preview feature, but that’s javascript based.

  15. Ron Unz says:
    @Cagey Beast

    Well, I can’t imagine that private security consultants get access to website IP logs, not those of the NYT website and certainly not my own. On the other hand, if some commenter threatens to kill a federal judge and the comment somehow manages to slip through moderation, then I guess the irritated federal judge might get a court order and I’d have to dig out my IP records. More likely, nobody would even notice until the federal judge got assassinated, and somebody found the comment after Googling his name.

    Given the inconvenience of digging out old IP records, I’d very much prefer that commenters instead leave their death-threats on the NYT website, since the Gray Lady has a larger staff to handle that sort of thing…

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  16. Ron Unz says:

    Looks like there was just a bug in the code that hid some of the blog posts when you run in non-Javascript mode. I’ve now fixed it, so you should check to see if they’re now visible.

    Also, if you click the “Teaser” link in the selection bar near the top of a blog, you’ll be able to see the teaser-summaries of 50 posts at a time, which might be more convenient for you.

  17. Svigor says:

    I see that Ron’s fixed the “infinite scrolling” problem. Kudos, Ron; let no one say you’re not quick off the mark.

  18. @Svigor

    NoScript Firefox extension

    You can allow isteve scripts, and disallow google, facebook and twitter.

  19. @Svigor

    It may take forever to load a Disqus thread

    I agree.

  20. lists the names of individuals who have endorsed or opposed a particular comment

    Individuals could be put in “upvote-groups” for this purpose. Steve could create an upvote-group called “Steve’s Group” and select commenters to be a members of this group. They would share their upvotes. A reader could subscribe to “Steve’s Group” and comments would show thumbs up-down percentage of those members.

  21. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Ron Unz

    I am not going to pretend to be a tech savy guy, but I believe the threat is not limited to a Federal Subponea from a judge.

    I would be more fearful of my IP address being tied to my name and then other groups acquiring an enemies list of “unfavorables.” People who talk about other races and especially people who talk about Jews would be prime targets I believe.

    You may laugh at that, but would you say that would be so unreasonable in China or Russia? If it happens in other places, why couldn’t it also happen here?

    With Dylann Roof shooting up a church, do you find it so inconceivable that the government would not start monitoring this site and collecting suspects with or without your consent? We already know from Snowden that the NSA is already doing this.

    IMO adding likes is a huge mistake because it lowers the standard of debate. People turn discussions into mob rule where people try to shut up the other side. Having a special title as a poster would also worsen things and not make them better, because the people most likely to feel comfortable enough to create a handle here and vote may not be representative of your general audience or be the best ones to advance debate. They may just be the most mainstream.

  22. I suspect there are more people than commonly assumed who have thoughts similar to most of us here. That is, I think there is something like the old “Silent Majority.”

    I suggest anyone who finds Main Stream Media thought increasingly irrelevant should comment to that effect as often as possible on sites like this.

    There can be a critical mass, which, when achieved, will add comfort and safety in numbers.

    That’s partly what free speech is for, isn’t it?

    As always, a big thank you to Mr. Unz and his columnists for putting so much work into this.

  23. Chang says:

    Good to see Unz growing.
    The Internet censors seem to be winning lately.
    Reddit has taken a sharp turn towards SJW-land.
    And Twitter has been increasingly aggressive at banning “trolls” — as defined by the 24 year old Progressive SJWs that run Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco.

  24. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Ron Unz

    Are you seriously telling us you can’t turn off IP logging on your own site, Mr Unz?
    That rings completely hollow. For a guy like you who’s spent so much time polishing his website I can’t believe it would take you more than a few minutes to turn off.
    And, FYI, every website most certainly does *not* log IP’s.
    So why the cop out?
    Why exactly do you want all our IP addresses logged anyway?

    • Replies: @Ron Unz
  25. Ron Unz says:

    Are you seriously telling us you can’t turn off IP logging on your own site, Mr Unz?
    That rings completely hollow.

    This is totally ridiculous—I’m certainly not going to try to figure out how to modify the operational core code of WordPress just to soothe a few paranoid commenters. And even if I did and said so, does anyone seriously think any of those paranoids would ever *believe* me? So anyone worried about having their IP address logged can just use that Tor-software thingy people are always talking about. Or maybe go back to commentering on the New York Times website, where their IP address would surely be safe…

    • Replies: @J Yan
  26. J Yan says:
    @Ron Unz

    People who haven’t done software development don’t understand that typical end-user software is underpinned by multiple standardized layers, which generally are not messed with.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  27. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @J Yan

    Indeed. But those that know software also realize that a daemon can be set up very simply to erase all stored IP records once every minute. Solved problem. This issue may not seem like “big deal” in US eyes, but it is very big deal from European perspective. We have known *true* totalitarian states. Your apathy in the face of the NSA spy threats is “playing with fire”. If even libertarian websites do not see this, there is perhaps no hope.

  28. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Ron Unz

    Logging IPs is an option. YOU can choose to log or not to. Sometimes tracking IPs helps diagnose posting issues. A reasonable compromise then is to only keep logs for the last few days. Certainly there is no good reason for you to keep IPs for a long time.

    since he just received a life sentence for ordering several contract-killings…

    That did not happen. All of the alleged murder attempts were taken out of the indictment. We don’t even know if they ever were real. He has received life sentence for drugs distribution and various conspiracies (to violate narcotics laws, to commit computer hacking, to traffic in fraudulent IDs, to commit money laundering).

    Think of it this way: Every day thousands of people die from overdoing alcohol consumption. And ethanol is about as addictive as cocaine. But this guy got a life (i.e., more than what most murderers get) because he built a mall where some users bought drugs and overdosed.

  29. Oh no!

    I read Unz nearly exclusively on an iPad and everything has been working fairly well – until this morning. Suddenly I’m trapped in the “mobile” version which doesn’t permit me to see the entire page and makes it very difficult to read what I want when I want.

    I may need to learn anew how to navigate the site. And I just detest learning anything new…

    • Replies: @Ron Unz
  30. Ron Unz says:
    @Stan D Mute

    Thanks for letting me know. I think it’s fixed.

    • Replies: @Stan D Mute
  31. @Ron Unz

    Excellent, thanks Ron! That was a close call – I was perilously near being forced to learn and adapt before your rescue..

    While I have your ear (eyes), perhaps you could also address your new feature with the various buttons for “agree,” “disagree,” etc? Again, I peruse your site (almost) exclusively on an iPad and I’m not sure the new feature is working as you intend it. When I click a button I am always referred to a page that says:

    Only recently active commenters (with at least ten published comments during the last thirty days) may provide Agree/Disagree opinions on other comments


    When I go back to the original page, the new feature buttons have disappeared. I think I meet the criteria for number of comments (say, that’s total number – not number of good comments right?) and time window. Is this a platform specific issue or am I doing it wrong perhaps?

    I am certain that all your commenters here are obsessed with worry that I may not agree with their comments so the proper function of this tool will have serious mental health ramifications for your readers.

  32. I appreciate the new voices you’re adding to the choir here Ron. I can’t fathom how challenging it must be to identify writers whose work is worth reading when their opinions may differ dramatically with your own. It’s far easier for us, as readers, to simply skim or skip entirely those with whom we disagree. But having them here, a curated collection of dissenters, helps get us away from the echo chamber that virtually every site has become. Thanks!

    Oh, in the spirit of civic-mindedness, if you’d like some help organizationally with all the new content, I’d be pleased to do my part. If you just divided the home page into four quadrants and gave each a title bar, I would sort the content into the appropriate box. For clarity, you could title them: “Unqualified Truth,” “Well Meaning but Misguided,” “Manifestly Wrong,” and “Batshit Crazy.” I’m just brimming with great ideas like this…

    • Replies: @Ron Unz
  33. Ron Unz says:
    @Stan D Mute

    Thanks! To some extent, the little popup window that lets users expell various columnists to the “bottom” is meant to allow them to eliminate the columnists they regard as worthless…

    And thanks for letting me know about the apparent bug in the Agree/Disagree button. I’d been wondering why almost nobody had used it after the first couple of days, so I’ll try to fix the problem.

    • Replies: @Stan D Mute
  34. @Ron Unz

    While you’re under the hood tinkering..

    The “commenters to skip” input box appears on an iPad all the way off the left side of the screen so that it’s impossible to see what is in the box and impossible to add/change the contents. It’s a pretty Aspie feature, but one I find makes the comment threads MUCH more enjoyable. Since I’m not ready for any self-analysis on that idea I will leave it there.

    • Replies: @Ron Unz
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