"The only difference I see in those eight years is the level administrative moderation."
OK, you don't agree. This is fine, because right now (as opposed to a week or so ago, when I wrote that) I am also seeing something different.
We're dealing with the drown-'em-out troll technique I mentioned, which is fairly new. Reason does nothing. And since moderators don't see fit to close the account of someone who posts totally nonsensical posts seven times running in one topic, and lord only knows how many per night on all topics, we've got to come up with new techniques of our own.
And we had one working just the other day thanks to cleverness and cooperation among people who still believe this place could be better. We simply derailed a bone-stupid topic (who seriously thinks unfulfilled campaign promises are the same thing as lies?) by wandering off into inane chitchat about the art fair and sports.
It took a bunch of people completely ignoring the troll and, well, drowning it out.
If we have to do this on three or four topics every single day, it'll once again raise the signal-to-noise ratio above critical and the benefit will be lost. But at least it worked once.
How many more creative team effort tactics can we come up with? I've got no idea, but you have to agree we do not have a passive readership here.
I disagree cancelling the accounts of major-league trolls is useless. Instead I think it should be one tool among many to keep the level of discussion high enough to draw and keep good commentators and readers. I am pleased to see one account has been cancelled today and I believe we've got one more to go. Cancelling shouldn't happen daily or even weekly, but I'd say cancelling a few now and then doesn't hurt and probably helps. The idea isn't to have everyone agree on everything -- that gets unbearably boring. The idea is to have something approaching a balanced exchange going on.
Throwing someone off occasionally illustrates the school bus principle. A friend of mine used to drive for Metro on the school bus routes, which can be notorious for discipline problems. He said the way to keep things under control was to throw someone off now and then. If they think you'll never do it, they'll run amok. If they know you will
do it, they've got fair notice and most kids will stay within most of the lines most of the time, which is the best you can expect.
And with all due respect, I think the moderators have to grow a spine too. I don't know about actual blackmail, real threats, or an organized campaign to alienate advertisers (which is reprehensible -- they make it all possible and everybody realizes it). But if it's just a matter of deleting a mountain of nasty personal emails that mirrors the sewage canal of nasty public forum posts somebody's been sending for the last couple months, grit your teeth and do it. Go to your happy space or something.