Saturday, March 31, 2007

Troll Data

I very seldom censor comments on this blog, even if the comments are obnoxious. These negative comments are not so different from some of the negative reviews one gets from time to time for manuscripts or proposals or teaching, albeit the blog comments tend to be on the inarticulate and strange end of the scale of negative reviews. I guess I consider these comments to be a natural element of the blog ecosystem.

In some ways the annoying troll comments are like data outliers that you'd like to delete because they make the interpretation of the 'nice' data more difficult, but they are data nevertheless. In some cases, data outliers are important, and in some cases they mean something went wrong with the experiment or analysis or sample preparation or all of the above. Of course, I wouldn't want to hypothesize which of the latter possibilities explains these people.

The phenomenon of aggressively sexist men who frequently read and negatively comment on blogs that have a 'women in science' theme is interesting in a disturbing kind of way. The obnoxious comments certainly reinforce the point that many of us are making about what the scientific/academic culture is like for many of us.

I once got an external review comment from a semi-prominent person in my field in which the prominent person wrote that he 'never' reads my papers because he knows there will nothing interesting in them. I told a colleague about this, and whenever he encounters this particular person at a conference, he makes a point of asking "Hey, have you read that recent paper on X by FSP?" (i.e., me), and my colleague reports that the semi-prominent person always says yes, he's read the paper in question, and then discusses my paper in great detail. As far as I can tell from this secondhand information, this person who 'never' reads my papers has read everything I've published in the past 15 years. As long as he isn't writing any more reviews of my work, it's fine with me if he just lurks there in the background with the other academic trolls, though I know that he could well be a reviewer of my papers and proposals on some occasions. That's an unfortunate part of the academic ecosystem, but it hasn't yet stopped me from writing what I want to write.


Anonymous said...

FSP, I wonder how appropriate for you to call negative commenters "troll" considering the fact that you are an anonymous blogger. I also would like to remind you that not one american woman received the nobel prize in any field so far in over a century therefore if I were you I would stop and think why before whining about sexism. You are like african americans who complain about the white racism all the time. It is just so annoying to play the race card all the time. Your constant blogging shows me how lonely you are. You should try to get a life to yourself. You can start by trying to make friends from
outside academia. All you are doing here is to reinforce the concept that female academicians are losers. This is my unsolicited advice to you.

Anonymous said...

Blogging in front of a computer screen gives an ugly woman a lot of confidence definitely since there is no body language. Nobody can see what you look like at that moment and read your body language.
If you posted your picture here, how many people would be interested in this blog? I would like you to think about it. Girls reading this blog probably think you look like Nicole Kidman. They would be so disappointed if they learned what you really look like. I feel sorry for you...

Anonymous said...

not one american woman received the nobel prize in any field so far in over a century

And this is supposed to convince us that there is no sexism in science?

*cough* Jocelyn Bell *cough*

Oh, and calling someone ugly? What a dazzling rhetorical move! The mind fairly boggles.

Anonymous said...

FSP has a very good point: "The obnoxious comments certainly reinforce the point that many of us are making about what the scientific/academic culture is like for many of us."
If you troll(s) actually could read and understand the above statement, you'd quit with the flat-out gratuitous insults to women in academia. I'll spell it out in simple words: YOU CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS, complaining that women are "whining about sexism" while insulting all female academicians in the same post.
The past few days have certainly put a huge spotlight toward online harassment of bloggers who happen to be female. Thanks, troll, for another putrid bit of evidence.

Anonymous said...

Do you also think that nobody is interested in reading about general relativity because Einstein was not a male supermodel?
Or what about Newton? He was really ugly, so his theory of gravity clearly has to be uninteresting.
Because you know, it is obviously more important how people look like than what they have to say.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous Rice university jackass from post 1 (and presumably post 2), get back to us when you've won a Nobel Prize, or when someone from your country wins a Nobel sometime soon.

These thinly veiled attempts at trying to 'out' FSP are a little laughable. I'm sure I'll have better success at outing your real identity on the other hand. If I cared enough... If you feel so strongly that women cannot have success in hard sciences, why don't you put your real name behind your posts?

But obviously, you can disregard this post since it's anonymous and therefore contains no useful information.

Anonymous said...

oh, please. Those first two cartoonishly sexist posts are just a calculated attempt to provoke angry responses (although there's probably an element of genuine sexism in why the poster thinks this is funny).

FSP, as a grad student about to start a postdoc, I've found reading your blog interesting as a preview of academic life. I'm sure it's not easy to find time to maintain it around an academic schedule, so thanks for your hard work!

Yvette said...

So I can't help it- I laughed. What a great first pair of clueless comments.

And last I checked, Newton said on his deathbead that his proudest accomplishment in his life was that he died a virgin. Hawt. No one seems to mind though.

Anonymous said...

Doug Natelson,
My country won a nobel prize just last year. FYI... Let me know when you get one

Douglas Natelson said...

Hermanweyl - I was going to stay out of this (based on the old adage "Don't feed the trolls!"), but since you dragged me in by apparently thinking that the above anon post was from me (it wasn't - you've posted numerous things in the past that would allow a reasonably bright person to infer that you're at Rice), I have to respond.

I don't post anonymously.

Your attitude and behavior are an embarrassment. You're free to hold your ill-informed opinions, but when you deliberately post obnoxious drivel in a puerile attempt to provoke a response, it's not witty, or funny, or cool - it's creepy, pathetic, and sad. Either you really have all this hostility and resentment toward someone you've never met purely because of her gender and profession, or you want to pretend that you do because you somehow get enjoyment out of being a provocateur. Neither alternative speaks well of you.

At least Lubos Motl has the guts to sign his name to his aggressive trolling.

Your opinions are not worth any further response. FSP, please accept my apology. I fear that the link on my blog to this one led to this trolling.

Mr. B. said...


I guess all you can do is laugh.

The name Lobachevsky recalls the wonderful Tom Lehrer song lyrics:

I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.
In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics: Plagiarize!

Let no one else's work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don't shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize...
Only be sure always to call it please, "research".

etbnc said...

I'm inclined to consider suspicious most comments dated April 1st.

Including this one, I suppose.

Er, uh, oh...

Segmentation fault. Core dumped.

Anonymous said...

In some ways the annoying troll comments are like data outliers that you'd like to delete because they make the interpretation of the 'nice' data more difficult, but they are data nevertheless.

Spoken like a scientist and not a statistician. Aggressively sexist comments and those of commenters who actually interested in what it's like being a woman in science are *not* comparable data points.

I mean it's one thing to come in and say "I think sexism is academia is overstated". It may be wrong--especially in light of the fact that nearly everything on this blog is 1st person experience, it's not that there's a lot to debate--but it's a debatable proposition.

The "I'm sure FSP is ugly" flame, on the other hand, is just pure ass-hattery and has no place here (or anywhere, really). Moderating them is a pain, but I hope that you decide to do so. (and I'd ban whatever IP address "hermanweyl" posts from--he's a proper jackass)

Anonymous said...

While the first two comments and others like it are truly loathsome, I really don't feel that hermannweyl's (and sockpuppet's) attitude is shared by most leaders in the physics field. I have encountered guys like this in person, and it is my experience that they're into physics purely for reassurance that they're in the "smart" club. Most of their joy comes from the shared experience of deriding others outside their immediate field, rather than making actual contributions such as APS presentations. (For that matter, I seriously doubt hermannweyl has even created a poster.)
Fortunately, you gotta love the physics itself to have long-term staying power in the field--otherwise it is a very unrewarding career choice.

Anonymous said...

patt, I have an invited talk in two weeks. I also know female scientists who do not have complexes (take Lisa Randall for instance)

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it's an invited talk in east podunktown that your advisor did not want to give, or some colloquium at your old school. Good invitations come more freely to those who are collegial.

Ms.PhD said...

Actually, the 'invited talk' comment raises an interesting point.

How many of these people are lurking out in the world, mostly keeping their mouths shut at work and at meetings, saving their real beliefs for comments on blogs?

We'd all like to think that none of them are successful scientists by most objective measures- papers, invited talks, grants. But the fact of the matter is, they are out there, they are not figments of the blogosphere. They actually do think this way, and have all this pent-up rage. These kinds of comments would translate into outright discrimination and hate crimes if acted upon in 'real' life.

Thanks, FSP, for sharing. When they come to me, I mostly choose to delete them, so I'm not as interesting to target as I used to be. I don't need the reminders that these people are out there, since I'm pretty sure some of them work in offices and labs just like mine.

Anonymous said...

patt, it is neither of them. It is an institute of technology. I suggest you stop writing rubbish since you do not know who I am. I may not be Herman Weyl but I did not start research yesterday either. Since nobody knows anyone in this forum, it is essentially shooting in the dark. Do we know FSP is a professor anywhere?

Anonymous said...

I believe that the competition for academic physics jobs is so intense, if you have a serious personality flaw that makes you unable to deal with women, and this is noticed, you will be tossed aside for a better-qualified AND more collegial candidate. Even at Podunk Institute of Technology. Why would an institution make such a risky hire? (I can see this would happen if, say, hermannweyl were 1000x better than the competition, but I have seen no evidence for this, and many nonsensical logical leaps that would point to the inverse.) As to whether such a candidate can stealth it up until tenure, yes, that is troubling.

Anonymous said...

patt, as a person working in starbucks, you are speculating too much... Don't you have a customer waiting for you? What do you know about academia other than the frapuccinos you serve to professors?

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, Pete has outed me as an industrial physicist, studying foams and emulsions in my "lab" at Starbucks. However, I do know some things about academia, and my opinions are as valid as anyone's.

Please remember, hermannweyl, not to post during your purported "talk" at PIT. The blogosphere will thank you.

gs said...

...not one american woman received the nobel prize in any field so far in over a century...

Rosalyn Yalow. Barbara McClintock. Maria Goeppert-Mayer. C.S. Wu's case should not be forgotten.
FSP, whether or not you're pretty, it's obvious that you're beautiful. Mr. FSP is a lucky man.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with gs above here: and besides! I always thought your profile picture was your hair. That's excellent hair, in that case. The Nobel question really highlights the definition of success. We were discussing a prominent female women's basketball coach being underpaid for her work (after the caveat of what underpaid is in college athletics is met) and the issue of national championship titles, of which this lady has none, came up. I highlighted the years of Final Four appearances and other illustrious accomplishments and the audience readily agreed that yes, this was a clear list of high success. But we all do tend to fixate on the pinnacle of any achievement: as if without that one award you must not be of that tier or near or, or other women or any subgroup must not be. Foolishness.

Female Science Professor said...

I keep meaning to replace the weird hair picture, but to me it sort of symbolizes part of my problem -- I don't look like a scientist or a professor. I could cut and dye my hair, I suppose, and I could get fake glasses and walk around in a lab coat all day, but it would be much better if more people would realize that scientists and professors can look like me.

Anonymous said...

American Female Nobel Prize Winning Scientists:

Gerty Cori
Physiology or Medicine 1947

Maria Goeppert-Mayer
Physics 1963

Rosalyn Yalow
Physiology or Medicine 1977

Barbara McClintock
Physiology or Medicine 1983

Gertrude B. Elion
Physiology or Medicine 1988

Linda B Buck
Physiology or Medicine 2004

American Female Nobel Caliber Scientist

Chien-Shiung Wu, physics

There are of course more women nobelists or nobel caliber in science from other countries

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Rosalind Franklin under "Nobel-caliber".

Anonymous said...

I didnt forget Franklin, but she was British

Anonymous said...

Oops, you're right, of course.

Anonymous said...

anonymous, the first two in your list are not americans...

Anonymous said...

Hey--my moniker's been swiped! Twice! Typical troll behaviour. Well, at least he has been forced to confront the list of female Nobel prize winners from recent history, if his first post was honestly not a joke.

Anonymous said...

Gerty Cori was a naturalized American citizen.

Anonymous said...

Maria Mayer spent most of her career in the US, from 1939

Auntie Em said...

I do hope Herman is better informed about whatever topic he's giving his talk on than he is on the subject of Nobel Laureates.