Anonymous, Negative, and Personal Comments

May 8th, 2013

ChemBark Logo with Ed the DogA big “thank you” to everyone who leaves comments on the site. They add so much value to the blog, and they make writing posts much more fun for me. I love a good debate, and I know there are a lot of quiet lurkers out there who appreciate the comments, too.

When leaving comments, you don’t have to enter anything in the name, e-mail, or website fields if you don’t want to. I have also avoided making commenters log in with a profile of some sort, because I find this practice annoying and it often doesn’t work on mobile devices. As a consequence, I have to use a spam blocker to filter out comments that look like they might be spam. It does a good job—blocking about 200 or so bad comments per day—but occasionally some slip through, which I delete later by hand. The filter also occasionally blocks comments that are legitimate. So, if you post a comment and you don’t see it pop up immediately when you refresh your browser, send an e-mail to paul -at- and I will fish it out of the garbage. There is no need to re-write your comment.

Speaking of comments, I have some housekeeping to take care of in the form of two new ground rules.

Ground Rule 14: “Unspecific or similarly vacuous negative comments by unidentifiable users may be deleted or censored.”

I have discussed before why I allow anonymous commenting on this site, and as I said above, your comment will still post even if you leave the name, e-mail, and website fields blank. While I don’t plan to make it a habit of censoring comments, I am going to add a ground rule that unsubstantiated negative comments from anonymous or unknown pseudonymous users will be deleted. Comments along these lines could be:

“John Public is a crappy teacher.” — Ben Zene

“I went to grad school with Professor Public and he sucks.” — Anonymous

“If I were a postdoc for Public, I would kill myself.” — Mo Ron

Basically, these sorts of comments are worthless. They provide little to no useful information, they’re not funny, and they make people upset. I feel little compunction about deleting them.

With that said, I would allow similar comments to remain if they were substantiated. For instance:

“John Public is a crappy teacher. I had him for Chem 157 at Harvard, and he basically did nothing. His teaching assistant made us pick dates out of a hat on the first day of class, then we had to prepare and deliver the lecture for whatever date we picked. What’s worse was that he graded our lecture while dropping in and out of consciousness, and it was our only grade for the class. Ugh.” — Ben Zene

While the above comment is negative, the user has provided a decent explanation for his negative assessment and the discussion is relevant to chemistry.

Ground Rule 15: “Comments containing personal information with little or no relevance to chemistry will be deleted.”

Comments that stray recklessly into personal areas that have little or no relevance to chemistry will be deleted. For example:

“John Public’s boyfriend is butt ugly. His teeth look like he’s got a mouthful of Chiclets.”

“John Public is an alcoholic.”

“John Public has a house on Martha’s Vineyard.”

As written, these comments contribute nothing meaningful to a discussion about chemistry. With that said, personal information may be discussed if it is of significant relevance to a matter regarding chemistry or chemical research, and this relevance is manifest or explained. For instance,

“John Public is an alcoholic, and his lab is really suffering because of it. He shows up to group meetings reeking of booze and babbling to himself, then he usually falls asleep. The other day, he stumbled into lab and knocked over a 4L bottle of ethyl acetate. I know a senior grad student there is definitely thinking of switching labs.”

I’m not encouraging comments like this at all—they can make my life hell—but I’m not going to censor them unless I know the information to be false. With that said, you should know that leaving false, defamatory information in a blog comment (or anywhere else, for that matter) exposes the commenter to lawsuits for libel. While I will never volunteer information regarding anonymous commenters on the blog, I will comply with lawful court orders to provide information like IP addresses, etc.

Basically, play nicely, everyone. Treat others as you would wish to be treated. Deciding what stays and goes is not a science, but I will do my best to apply the rules fairly. In cases where a distinction is not clear, I will favor letting a comment stand.

And, as always, I welcome your feedback.

21 Responses to “Anonymous, Negative, and Personal Comments”

  1. Amina Phenol Says:

    John Public is a rabid porcupine, and it really brings down the entire lab. He runs around the halls, biting gas cylinders and foaming at the mouth. He once bit a young researcher during a job interview, and the fellow declined our offer for a job. I know personally of a post-doc who’s crying at nights because of this.

  2. See Arr Oh Says:

    John Public couldn’t teach a class if his life depended on it. A combination of poor pedagogy, awful fashion sense, and a terrible haircut instill a severe lack of confidence in his future promote-ability at Big State U. We all knew, from the moment he scribbled it onto the board, that his tandem phospha-oxy-Wittig-fluorous-Rahut-Stille metathesis chemistry wasn’t going to fly.

    1/5 stars.

  3. Chemjobber Says:

    John Public told me that chemistry was an easy field to get an industrial job with. He said, “Look, sonny, all ya gotta do to get that great job in medicinal chemistry is finish your total synthesis.” Professor Public said, “They’re dying for synthetic chemists in industry — there are thousands of openings for them! A total shortage!”

    1/5 stars.

  4. A Professor Says:

    Now you’re turning this into Rate My Professor!

  5. MR Says:

    Unfortunately for you, Amina Phenol, that rabid porcupine has tenure.

  6. gossip is great Says:

    Hello everybody,

    Today is my final day at the Mongolian Institute for Yak Breeding. I was a post-doc in Pytro Schozolosivich’s lab in the yak chemistry department. I want to tell you one of the strangest things I faced in my yak scientific career.

    In one of our group meetings (called mini-yak meetings in Schozolosivich lab) during the beginning of my post-doc in 2002 Shredu Pzoplogi (then a PhD student) came up with an idea to synthesize PCR-based yakRNAs
    (RNAs of yak) at a significantly less cost of 500,000,000,000 Tögrög.

    After listening to his idea which was jointly presented by Guxie Chuen, a then post doc, I said in front of everybody that “I guarantee that this yak approach will not work.”

    Well, I was not liked by Pyt for saying that and he agreed to synthesize the library anyway for 8000 yak genes (It actually was produced at a cost in the range of 100,000,000,000 Tögrög). The paper was published in
    PYAS (Title: An approach to genomewide yak screens of expressed small interfering yak RNAs in mammalian cells; Guxie Chuen, Wuan Blu, Motlov Khrevich, Deemoin Mou, Guido Francis, Shredu Pzoplogi , and Pytro Schozolosivich: Proc Yak Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Jan 6;150(1):135-47.). Guxie Chuen was the first author, while
    Shredu Pzoplogi and Pytro Schozolosivich were the corresponding authors. During this time Shredu Pzoplogi has become a faculty member of the yak chemistry department and apparently this was his first paper as an
    independent faculty.

    Many people in the lab were trying to use this library, including me for two different yak-related screens, but unfortunately nobody could reproduce their primary yak results. Three months after the publication of the paper Guxie Chuen (the first author) said in a mini-yak meeting that the PCR-based yakRNA library DOES NOT works and Pyt made himself a YAK. (Yak, in our language, when used acusatively can mean fool or fish dinner depending on enunciation).

    Most strangely, Pyt instead of doing something about the paper got extremely annoyed with me and told me one time that if I speak about it I wouldn’t get his support for any yak studies of my own. I was harassed so bad that my choice was either to leave the lab then and loose two years of work and a paper (on which Pyt started giving nasty, sometimes abusive comments) and 500,000 top-quality yak or take everything (10,000 yak) and keep quite and get another yak job and then leave. I have got a job now and been fired four days
    before my actual ending date because of not showing-up for meeting with Pytro Schozolosivich. Well, I am least interested to talk to him because I have no respect. I consider him the most dishonest yak scientist and the lowest human being I have come across in my life. He is lower than yak to me. I am very happy that I am fired, because under no circumstances I will support such yak science and his unyakmanlike behavior.

    As my friend Yak told me that nobody will trust me. Well, I know that. Yak will come with his own version. But just ask the following questions:

    1. What was the reason Shredu Pzoplogi started looking for jobs one year after getting the faculty position here? I believe he had good interviews but then stayed no at Yak. Then what was the reason to look for jobs at the first place (may be Pyt thought that he scarred me enough and I am dependent on him and I will
    not speak).

    2. Why Pyt have Guxie a bad reference for a job to Yak Product Incorporated. His one line was something like “he worked hard like yak but not know what he do like yak”. I come to know this from Guxie. I must mention
    that on Pyt’s back Guxie told a number of times that the library does not work and Pyt is trying to hide it. (Four years after publication notbody in the lab is using it.)

    3. Why ZZZ ZZZZ (the technician who PCRed the yak library, this was synthesized after the good yak library) got fired.

    4. Why Pyt forced me to publish my yak cycle screen using another yakRNA library into PYAS in return to transfer my Y1B visa.

    Last but the most important thing is that this is not a general practice in this lab and most of the people I the lab are very hard working, good and honest yak scientist.

  7. Curious Wavefunction Says:

    John Public has no sense of Public decency.

  8. Chemjobber Says:

    This is the funniest thing I’ve read all month. I bow in your general direction.

  9. Chemjobber Says:

    Uh, my last comment is directed at “gossip is great.”

  10. Paul Says:

    @GIG: I just called the chairwoman of the MIYB and she would not comment on the matter. I have asked the press office of the school for official comment, but I don’t expect to hear much. I am on bad terms with the editor-in-chief of PYAS following the Sezen case, so he never responds to my e-mails.

    The silence is deafening.

    My question is, why hasn’t C&FN expressed any interest in covering this story? They *had* to have known about it before your comment. Once again, this sort of case is exactly why we need blogs.

    Best of luck in your new position.

  11. Obvlious Says:

    I heard John Public has a wooden leg…………………..

  12. wolfie Says:

    Now, Paul’s getting formal, or ugly (not for the first time, by the way. It may be a sin, however). Maybe he has to because he stranded at a Jesuit University.

    Who could drink 4 bottles EtAc at a time ? Not even myself.

  13. wolfie Says:

    Treat others as you would wish to be treated.

    Yes, this is a nice criterion. For Assistant or Associate Professors anywhere in the world. Even @ Columbia.

  14. wolfie Says:

    Lawsuit. What lawsuit again ? For whom ? Are there any critical commenters I do not know ?

  15. wolfie Says:

    Although, I would most likely never post a comment that would try to ruin the career of a striving young professor. As you have done.

  16. wolfie Says:

    And, what about the IP addresses ? You know who I am, so what ?

    Look, this is fun for me, as you know, and so what ?

  17. wolfie Says:

    International lawsuits, by the way, are expensive. Usually people don’t pursue them, that’s my experience.

    Has Sames ever sued you ? or Sezen ?

  18. bad wolf Says:

    Is truth a defense to defamation claims? Yes. Truth is an absolute defense to a defamation claim.

  19. a Says:

    “Prof JQ Public and the never-ending columns” put out a recent album entitled “Yak on you crazy yak diamond”.

    Tracks included yakkity-sax (the sore dino remix), yak-attack (sezen synthesis), yak vs wolfie (noncongruous edit of whatness), yak that ass up (JJ Laclair, guest vocals) and the all-time classic yak! where did my money go (leadscope edit).

    Available in all good record shops now.

    Also: In the himalayas, yak dung turns out to be a fairly clean and a very inexpensive resource. The yaks do their part to sweep the hills for their bounty of drying grass and pass it on for further use behind them. It only needs to be collected from the copious deposits on the trails and set out to dry. Many homes in the villages have a tall stack of the flattened and dried chips that wait in storage under a tarp for the coldest winter nights, where a yakshit fire can be started at will.

  20. wolfie Says:

    Sorry, bad wolf, but until your claims find entry into the constitution of the United States of America

    or of the Federal Republic of Germany,

    times will have to go.

  21. RB Woodweird Says:

    When Professor Public walks into a room, people say “Who left?”

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