Thursday, April 26, 2012

* Birth of a Blog

 Link to YDN article by Ava Kaufman

Laugh Out Loud


“When I was a kid, troll used to mean someone who hid in the bushes,” Paul Keane DIV ’80 said. “The last thing I do is hide in the bushes.”
Paul Keane, who posts on the News’ website under the username TheAntiYale, is ostensibly one of Yale’s most famous resident trolls. Though his online comments take the tone of a gleefully indignant teenager, Keane’s voice on the phone is older, more unsure. His fiendish online smirk modulates into a softer, bemused smile when articulated over the telephone.
Keane says he doesn’t really know what led him to continue to comment on the News website after his first post in September 2009. He attributes his serial career to his interest in his hometown of New Haven, his alma mater Yale, and to his feelings of sympathy and shock for many of the events reported in the News.
Since that September day three years ago, Keane has posted 1,967 comments on the News’ website, sometimes posting multiple times a day. His blog, “The Anti Yale”, has received 21,000 views from over 103 countries. (“I have no idea what that means,” he added about the Google Analytics results. “It may have been search engines or robots.”)
Though Keane himself sees his time posting as “winding down now” (“I think after three years I haven’t got much more to say”), current News online editor Danny Serna said he thinks trolling in general has gotten worse lately.
Staffers and readers have characterized the comment boards across the News’ website as “particularly troll-infested,” “mad bitchy” and “spiteful.”
News readers and writers are familiar with the site’s group of frequent and famous pseudonymous posters: the biting fusillade of RiverTam, the lewd Joey00, the seemingly satirical YaleMom, and so on. RiverTam, Arafat, Penny_Lane, RexMottram08, HieronymousBosh and FailBoat could not be reached for comment.
No one really knows when the trolls first arrived at the News. Some say it was in early 2000s, while others guess they’ve been around since 1995 — as long as the site has been operative.
Former News editor-in-chief Vivian Yee ’12 said there was a drop in comments with the onset of a user policy change in the fall of 2010, which asked readers to comment on articles only after registering with a valid email address. She said that eventually the commenters — and those whom some called the trolls — slowly returned. “One of the issues during [the past board transition] was how could we balance stupid, unproductive and spammy comments with having a good flow of discussion. For a while we let it collect steam on its own, but eventually we did hit that balance,” Yee said.
The News now allows users the options of signing in through Twitter, GoogleID and Facebook. But the majority of users, including those who post frequently, still prefer anonymity to identifiable Internet identities.
In a largely anonymous community of disembodied voices, TheAntiYale is an exception to this rule. He deliberately signs comments with his real name and identifying information: Paul D Keane, M.Div. ’80, M.A. (Middlebury ’97), M.Ed. (Kent State ’72), B.A. (Ithaca College ’68).
Some would argue that Keane isn’t a troll precisely because he identifies himself as Paul Keane. As Keane confirmed, the TheAntiYale moniker is a succinct summation of Keane’s authored views, rather than the embodiment of a character or the vocalization of an ideology: “Ninety-nine percent of what I say is my opinion, but I do jazz it up with a contrived outrage. I pretend to be outraged and am not really. But I never solemnly say something I don’t believe.”
That leads one to wonder whether the voice on the phone is the voice of the TheAntiYale or the sounds of a septuagenarian speaking from his Vermont home. Even for other anonymous users, the pseudonym becomes a persona in time. Yee pointed out that as pseudonymous users continued to maintain a viewpoint or opinion, they acquire consistent personalities rather than simply spout offensive ideas. Paradoxically, as users post more, they lose their ability to inflame other users as effectively as trolls can because they are “consistent in their opinions and identity and seem to forcefully believe in them.”
And yet, like the typical troll, Keane’s posts are generally off-topic. At times they seem as though they’re randomly generated from a thematic memory bank. But this doesn’t bother Keane at all: He views his posts as his own genuine emotional response.
“I’ve been off-topic my entire life and most of the time it’s brought pleasure to people,” Keane said, laughing. When asked if he read the entire stories in the News before commenting, Keane responded, “No, no, I skim them.” He added that that if the comment section was particularly lively he would sometimes read those before the article, or even instead of it. He said he now plans for the epithet carved on his tombstone to read: “Delightfully off-topic.”


Keane said he settled on the name TheAntiYale to represent the “opposite polarity” of “Yale’s elitism. He said he receives enjoyment from comments “popping that elite balloon” and is also drawn to commenting for the “intellectual rapport” he has with other posters.
Though Keane reads The New York Times along with the News with his daily 5 a.m. coffee, he doesn’t comment on The Times’ site because the flood of voices drowns out the chance to playfully spar with personal and immediate feedback. “Several of the posters and I go back and forth, and in a way that’s enriching to me,” Keane said of his experience with the News. “I enjoy hearing what they say. Every once in awhile ‘River_Tam’ hits the nail on the head.”
In at least one comment, River_Tam seemed to share Keane’s enjoyment from the News comment boards. Underneath a February article about the shutdown of the New Haven Independent’s comment boards, River_Tam wrote: “Most internet comments are not worth reading. I find the YDN comments a pleasant respite from the sewage on reddit and the nytimes and the like.”
But the two do not know each other: as far as Keane knows, River_Tam, who is named after a character from the sci-fi TV series “Firefly,” is “some British scholar studying at Cambridge.” The other commenters’ anonymity, for him, limits their voice to no more than “graffiti on a bathroom wall.”
While Keane and River_Tam often get attention for their radical positions, Serna said the News tries to moderate “offense not opinion,” though he admitted that striking the balance can be difficult. Yee and Serna both said that readers flagging comments for removal and thus prompting moderators to take a closer look has been effective. In the more contentious debates, many comments that are flagged for removal simply differ in opinion, however radically. But removing contention does not fall under the News’ policy. . .

' " Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe . . ."

Photo above is  yours truly, coming out of anaesthesia at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center , December,  2008, after having half a kidney removed for cancer.  

I donned a fools' cap to scorn  the absurdity of  life and death and  recited from memory the "Jabberwocky"  to demonstrate  to the doctors  and attendants that I still had all (or most of) my marbles.  

Soon thereafter, The Anti-Yale was born, and has since accumulated 685 post, with 27,000  "views" in the last 12 months.

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