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Here’s my test for whether you’re qualified to post to Hacker News.

Pair the following five comments with their corresponding definitions:

1. “Raganwald is a blowhard whose pathetic attempts to score karma reveal him as an insecure dweeb who can’t get over being kicked around in grammar school. He and his mumblings should be should be flushed down the toilet bowl like the turds that they are.”

2. “What, raganwald is talking about beauty in code? Have you seen some of his code? Ignore him.”

3. “Raganwald sounds a lot like a Ruby fanbody, and we all know how those people think."

4. “Anyone who has spent that much time on Java clearly has no taste in software and cannot be relied upon for sound reasoning. Ignore raganwald.”

5. "Of course raganwald would say that there’s something wrong with Waterfall, he’s a Certified Scrum Master, he’s just pimping his own credentials.”

And the definitions:

A. Fallacy: Ad Hominem Abuse

B. Fallacy: Circumstantial Ad Hominem

C. Fallacy: Tu Quoque (“You Also”)

D: Fallacy: Guilt by Association

E: Not a Fallacy: Insults

Example: 1-E, This is an insult, but not fallacious.

I know people smarter than the vast majority of HN users (how can this really be judged, sure, but I'd place money on it, certainly far, far smarter than me) who wouldn't know those, and I know many, many people who are damn smart (just not fitting them into the "smarter than most people here", but definitely smart enough to belong here if they wanted to) who also wouldn't know them.

I beg your pardon, I was trying to crack a funny. It seems it is impossible to parody an extremist belief without somebody mistaking it for the general article. I was attempting to parody the fundamentalist debating pedant point of view.

Poe’s Law strikes again: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Poes_Law

The depressing thing is I can imagine people genuinely making the exact suggestion you made, with no humour at all. Sorry!

Er, HN already does limit access via arbitrarily-chosen tests of user quality. They just chose different tests. :)

I don't think it'd be a 100% bad idea to implement some sort of knowledge-based testing, wire it up to varying levels of initial access/privs on a site, and see what happens, as an experiment. User privs could then evolve once the user had actually posted or commented or rated things.

What are those tests? I haven't joined HN in ages (and then, only once), so I'm not up to date on the current procedures.

You have to come up with a username AND password!

Or remember your Facebook/Twitter/etc username/password.

If it's any consolation, he got me last week.


A sign of great writing: Half the readers think it's serious, the other half think it's a joke. Well done.

I'm disappointed - I think your idea is brilliant (although I wouldn't go with those examples)

Although my tongue was in my cheek, I think there’s at least a grain of truth in each of those examples.

It's possible to recognize that a fallacy is a fallacy without knowing the name. Asking "Is this a valid criticism?" kicks in the part of the brain that thinks about things.

If the person answers "Duh," you put them in some kind of post jail and make them earn their way out. I couldn't have named all those, but I recognized them as false criticisms immediately.

Oh crap. I caught your joke about pope-approved condoms the other day, but this time you had me going.

I found this puzzle both entertaining and educational. I guess that means I'm not qualified to post here ;-}

I laughed - don't worry.

They could look it up....

I have a really dumb spam filter on my blog which simply asks that the user "Type the word 'humour', but with American spelling". I've had a couple of complaints that this request is unfair to non-native speakers. My response is that you don't have to know it, you just have to know how to look it up.

(And yes, I saw that this stuff wasn't serious, but I thought it was a worthwhile point to make in any case. CAPTCHAs don't need to be things that users can pass without outside help.)

Never mind if people are smart or stupid. The important thing for a forum is if the participants are willing and able to provide thoughtful and interesting comments. Simple quizzes like the above (joke or not) might filter out a lot of lazy trolls up front. Everybody with a genuine interest in the forum should easily be able to find the answers using Google, and might even find it fun to learn a bit.

More importantly, after having made a bit of effort to be allowed in, the users might value the forum more.

Really I think you could just get away with testing to see if the user knows the difference between an Ad Hominem and a standard insult.

There is little more annoying than someone who thinks they see logical fallacies where none exist and take the conversation from bad (real arguments intermixed with old fashioned insults) to worse (nothing but an argument from fallacy)

"I don't claim to know what an Ad Hominem is." would also be a passing response in my book...

Showing a person's argument to be fallacious doesn't show there position is wrong. Many it seems fail to grasp this point.

<3 it. Reminds me of all the good reads on the multitudes of logical fallacies out on the net:


1E 2C 3D 4A 5B Do I pass?

I thought you were trying to be really clever by responding in hex.

    42 75 74 20 79 6f 75 20 73 68 6f 75 6c 64 20 68
    61 76 65 20 73 65 65 6e 20 74 68 61 74 20 73 6f
    6d 65 20 6f 66 20 74 68 65 20 63 6f 64 65 73 20
    61 72 65 20 6e 6f 6e 2d 70 72 69 6e 74 61 62 6c
    65 20 63 68 61 72 61 63 74 65 72 73 20 3b 2d 29

I think he's referring to your spelling. ('Tu' vis. 'To')

WRT 1. you're saying that

>"He and his mumblings should be should be flushed down the toilet bowl //

So arguably you're making the case to ignore his [implied] argument based on, in the antecedent sentence, his character. Sounds ad hominem to me.

Just saying.

It's possibly an ad hominem, but not likely to me. http://plover.net/~bonds/adhominem.html

is this a trick question?

I can't know but, after reading the comment, it ocurred to me that identifying "idiots" with bad spellers is fallacious.

Anyone else think it is someone else posting, before seeing it is self-referenced?

Very measured writing about yourself.

Copacetic shield.

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