Excellent Guide to Logical Fallacies

A Dr. Michael C. LaBossiere of ‘The Internet‘ has created an excellent e-book (except it’s in PDF) which details 42 common logical fallacies, including some of these classics:

Ad Hominem
Appeal to Authority
Appeal to Emotion
Appeal to Fear
Begging the Question
Guilt by Association
Poisoning the Well
Red Herring
Slippery Slope
Straw Man
Two Wrongs Make a Right

Having spent the best part of the last 10 years or so arguing with people on forums, I feel pretty silly realising only in the last year or so that most of the common arguing techniques actually have been formally classified in this way. Since realising that, it has made arguing on the Internet so much easier.

I’ve copied the e-book (redistribution is allowed), so if you’re interested in expanding your ability to argue on the Internet, it is definitely worth a read. Download it here!

Strategies to Mitigate Astroturfing for Forum Owners

Astroturfing (the practice of companies pretending to be ‘regular people’ and posting product or service recommendations on forums or blogs) is becoming a big issue. It’s becoming an increasing pain in the ass for us on AusGamers – as our site grows, we get more people drifting in from search engines on random keywords trying to pimp various products.

Unfortunately for this particular campaign – which is surprisingly subtle, giving the sheer obviousness of most of the others we get – it’s going to backfire, because I’m trying a new strategy. Rather than just blowing the whole post away, I’ve posted a link to a competitor.

We’ve been thinking for a while how to stop things like this. The most obvious strategy is to simply not allow new users to post URLs. This is what we’ll probably end up doing – before a user is allowed to post a URL, they must have at least (say) 10 regular posts to prove they’re actually interested in contributing to the community. The number will probably have to be tweaked a little.

There’s a bunch of other ways – approving first posts by new users, stopping them from creating new threads altogether, etc. At the end of the day I think the require-some-posts method works for us because we want to encourage a community of active users that regularly post useful information, and post counts is a simple (if not completely accurate) method of deriving some base level of trust – if they’ve got 100 posts, they’re more likely to be useful (simply because they haven’t been banned for astroturfing).