[theforum] [Fwd: [Content] Feedback: Please remove my name]

David Kaufman david at gigawatt.com
Wed Nov 7 14:31:55 CST 2007

"Joel D Canfield" <joel at streamliine.com> wrote:
>> My suggestion is simple: tell them to get stuffed. Once you
>> have posted something to a public list (such as thelist), you
>> can't revoke it later - it's already out there.
> Which approach is likely to garner greater support from the community at
> large, and future potential members of the community: this, or "sure,
> we'd love to help" ? I prefer the latter.

I would too, ideally.

> If this is just an occasional request, we should do what we can to keep
> the content, without needing to identify the author. But if someone
> insists that their entire post be removed along with their name,
> sometimes the needs of an individual outweigh the immediate perceived
> benefit to the community.

If only it were that simple.  The requests *are* occassional but, it seems, 
invariablly irrational, emotional and unrealistic.

The last guy, for instance, asked to have his "name, private personal 
information" such as his "company's name, telephone number and address" as 
well as his client's company name and URL removed from "a post" in which 
someone said his client was an idiot, and that post tended to be the first 
hit on Google for the client.

This seemed to be a reasonable enough request!  But when I attempted to fix 
it turned out that:

1. it was not a single post but dozens (a whole ugly thread, or two, which 
had gone up in flames)

2. all the posts contained the guys' own name,

3. a few others included the client's URL

4. the word "idiot" appeared in the thread, but not even in the same post 
with the client's URL

The google "HISNAME site:lists.evolt.org" search results he sent me, when I 
asked *which* posts he wanted removed/repaired, contained him participating 
normally in thecommunity, asking questions, getting answers and discussing 
web development.  When I found the ugly thread, there was nothing ovious to 
do, except maybe delete the whole mess, which I didn't feel was realy 
warranted by one hot-headed participant's remorseful hindsight.

I was most annoyed that I felt the original request (original *demand*, 
actually) was very misleading, implying that there were one or two posts 
with some very specific and unambiguous obviously private information that 
I could and should easily remove.  In reality there was really nothing I 
could do.  Delete the whole thread?  Search and remove his his name 
anywhere it appears in the archives?  In fact he was simply embarassed that 
people googling his name (and maybe his client's, though I doubt it) turned 
up this thread (because our page rank is high) and he now sorely wished to 
take back his words and rewrite history to undo the damage.

But it was he, not evolt, that did the damage, by posting things he'd later 
regret, and continuing to fuel the flames which continued to escalate his 
ridicule.  I decided on the course of doing nothing when he followed up 
that we should "also prevent search engines from displaying these posts" 
which, as a self-described web developer, he should have known is something 
over which we have no control.

In the end, he'd resorted to exaggerating the "damages" this had done to 
him with, "I ultimately lost the client, went out of business, and had to 
change careers because of these posts in the evolt archive"  -- yeah, I'm 
sure that was evolt's fault, buddy -- and finally making the inevitable, 
vaguely insinuated legal threats.

Even if I'd wanted to help him, which originally I had, at that point I 
understood why telling them to "stuff it" is the current procedure (if not 
a formal policy).

> I know for myself that if the official stance of evolt.org were
> uncooperative instead of helpful, I wouldn't be here.
> If, on the other hand, we're deluged with so many requests to remove
> content that it'll seriously damage the site, archives, whatever, we
> have a bigger (and completely different) problem.

I've come to the conclusion that this particular problem is one that is 
(because these are the people that are) best ignored.  I'm sure all big 
mailing list and Usenet web archives get these requests from people with 
varying degrees of "poster's remorse", but I'm sure, like us, their most 
insistent complainers tend to be from folks that are, shall we say, toward 
the unstable end of the emotional bell curve -- people we all learn to 
ignore in online discussions so as not to fuel the flaming threads they 
endlessly seem to stir up.

That said, if someone *did* make a polite request, with some even minimally 
reasonable justification, to remove a small, specific bit of information 
(be that an email, company name, mailing address, phone number or any other 
simple reasonable change) from the archive, and can point me to the 
*specific* post (or small number of specific posts) in which it appears, 
I'm happy to help!

Thing is, that hasn't happened yet.  Polite, reasonable people apparently 
never end up suffering from such severe cases of poster's remorse...


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