The Official Twit Of the Month FAQ
Last update, September 2000
"Just one person dipping his ass in the punchbowl can ruin the party for everyone else."
Usenet news groups (NGs) that deal with controversial subjects are often infested with persistent twits and trolls. We're not talking about the occasional troll who makes an outrageous drive-by posting and then moves on. Nor are we referring to people who constantly post polite articles voicing contrary opinions. We're talking about regular twits who insist on replying to an inordinate number of articles with inane, stupid, insulting and/or obnoxious comments, over and over again. They never add anything constructive to the conversation, nor do they ever seem to tire of the attention they get by stirring up trouble.
Flipping twits into your kill file (a.k.a. twit filter) is only a partial solution. Other people in the NG, people who you like to converse with, will often reply to the twits, usually quoting the twits drivel in their article. Pleas to ignore any given twit are never successful - too many people find it too difficult to pass by these human train wrecks without making a comment.
Moderated groups are seldom a solution for several reasons, not the least of which is the difficulty in finding someone willing to take on the tiresome and thankless job of reading hundreds of messages every day, day after day.
The NG alt.smokers was designed as a place for smokers to hang out and discuss tobacco, tobacco issues, and anything else that came to mind. It was heavily infested with extremely nasty, very persistent twits. They weren't there for the conversation; simply to harass and insult people. Often half the new messages came from two or three twits.
Our solution, which worked better than we could have hoped, was the Twit Of The Month Contest. Each month we conduct a vote for the biggest Twit of the Month. The winner wins an all expense paid trip to the twit filters of all the regulars who hang out in alt.smokers. The results have been dramatic. Since most people won't bother to remove the twits when their thirty-day prize expires, the effect is cumulative. With each passing month alt.smokers gets more enjoyable.
The rules for TOTM are simple:
One person, called the Beaner, takes on the job of organizing the contest and counting the votes. On or about the twenty-fifth of each month he starts a thread in the NG, calling for votes. Everyone who regularly visits the NG is invited to place one vote for the TOTM. Twits are allowed to vote, but their votes will be ignored.
Votes are e-mailed to the Beaner. The Beaner will acknowledge each vote with a return message, with the exception of votes from twits, whom he may ignore. On or around the first of the month the Beaner will announce the winner. The regulars will then plonk the winning twit into their filters. Taking one last swipe at the twit with a well-phrased insult is discouraged and traditional.
Publicly campaigning for specific twits is discouraged, as this gives them more of the attention they crave. For the same reason the actual count is not posted publicly, but is available through e-mail to any of the NG regulars who request them from the Beaner.
Within two or three days of the announcement the TOTM should be in the filters of all the regular users. If new people joining the NG reply to the twit, the contest should be explained to them, and they should be encouraged to join the fun. We've found compliance among new visitors to be near 100%.
If the twit tries to sneak back in with a new alias the members of the Beaner will declare him to be an impostor, and everyone will plonk the new alias. The Beaner may examine headers, compare styles, or just guess, being careful not to err on the side of caution. While this creates the possibility of an innocent twit being accidentally plonked, it should be noted that we don't care.
Participation is voluntary. If a regular user does not comply, one gentle reminder is recommended. If they persist, they are to be left alone, although other members of the NG might make the individual decision to filter them.
It is recommended that the position of Beaner be held for no longer than two or three months, then passed to another trusted member of the group. This keeps things honest and spreads the fun around a bit.
That's it - easy, simple, and a lot of fun at the expense of people lower on the food chain than Jerry Springer's guests. We've kicked around some additional ideas, like first and second prizes with different times in the filters, or special extensions for returning champions, or lifetime achievement awards, but decided that simple is better. This has been proven to work, and work better than we expected, so we don't want to mess with it.
For an article on the history of TOTM, including the surprising results and side effects, please check out http://www.davehitt.com/june00/totm.html.
The latest version of this FAQ can be found at http://www.davehitt.com/june00/totmfaq.html
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