A Nation of Snerts

The Dumbing of the Internet

This section talks about offensive people, and therefore contains some snips of offensive language. Deal with it as you think appropriate.

There are enough troublemakers in the Palace universe that they've come to be classified. The classification system used here was originated by jbum, who also provided many of the suggestions for handling problem users.

In general, problem users are known as snerts, a term supposedly coined by Kurt Vonnegut (a heavy palace user?). Within the broad sweep of snert behavior, there are many subclasses....

A Snert Taxonomy

Criminal Psychotics
or simply Psychotics
These are users who enjoy annoying others in the worst ways they know how, and will typically intentionally try to provoke wizards into killing them. Typical quotations:

  • "Suck my Dick" (repeated 100 times by hitting up arrow return)
  • "<insert wizards name here> is a bitch and deserves to die"
  • "Kill me Kill Me Kill Me"

Psychotics are generally the easiest to identify, and are probably the only case where a `kill without warning may be required. However, be careful not to confuse a "child" with a "psychotic". Psychotics will typically attempt to return immediately when killed, a fact that can be identified by `trackip and prevented somewhat by a judicious use of `banip.

Children A child is a young user (typically <= 15 years old) who delights in the freedoms of the Palace, and gets a kick out of seeing the word "fuck" appear on his computer, probably because he is not allowed to use the word at home. Children can easily be confused with "Psychotics" but there are important differences. One big difference is that children can usually be "talked down". Typical behaviors for children:

  • Repeating the ")Wind" sound 20 times.
  • Saying "Anyone want to screw?"
  • Wearing a "Kill All Guests" Sign (or a name like ".Guest Killa.")

A Child's level of abuse may vary greatly at different times, depending on the hormone levels. A Child's level of abuse may be borderline and may intentionally be just provocative enough to piss you off, but not enough to kick. Such is life. In many cases it is better to `gag a child (see below) rather than to `kill a child, thus confirming the Puritan notion that "children are better seen than heard".

Breathers A Breather is someone who continually propositions every user with a remotely feminine name or appearance to have sex, typically (but not always) using private messages. There are two varieties:

Horny Breathers
A horny breather simply wants to have sex. Unlike the psychotic variety, the horny breather will go away when asked. Probably the best thing to do with a horny breather is to tell him to "take it upstairs". Typical quote "Will you go upstairs with me"?
Psychotic Breathers
A psychotic breather specifically is trying to offend, and when greeted by a negative response, will persist even harder. Psychotic breathers tend to be much more obscene and offensive than the milder variety. In some cases it may be possible to fend off a psychotic breather by acting receptive, but this is probably a crap shoot a clear-cut Psychotic Breather should be killed.

In both cases, Breathers who use private messages to other members present problems, because we can't monitor chat. You are essentially taking the word of one member over another's. In most instances, this is pretty clear cut, but nonetheless, I would suggest asking for specific examples. It is not enough that a member named "Jane" says "Guest 3412 is being rude to me". It's possible that Jane is 12 years old and is offended by words she doesn't understand, like "existential". It's also possible that Jane has a personal vendetta against Guest 3412, or is playing a game (sometimes with others) called "Kill the Guest" which aims to trick wizards into bumping-off random, innocent guests. In these cases, ask Jane to give you more specifics ideally quoting directly from her log window. This would also be a good time to explain the 'mute and 'hide commands to Jane.
When users have complained about Breathers in the past, we have had some success by "going undercover" to catch them in the act.
Related to breathers are users who have explicit sexual conversations in the open, rather than in a private room or via whisper. Are they clueless? Or wanting to provoke others outside their conversation? Hard to say, but my usual practice is to quietly `gag them (long enough to get a word in edgeways), tell them to continue but only privately, and unceremoniously `ungag them. Unless it continues, of course.

Depressives A depressive is a user who is not very happy and is using the Palace as a form of personal therapy/escape. Depressives may act perfectly normal on some days, but on other days may act exceedingly weird, and make unusual bids for attention. Depressives are typically Members, rather than guests, and will take it very personally when killed. They don't want to be killed, they want someone to talk to them, and this is probably the best approach, if you are up for it.

New from AOL/IRC Users who are new to the Palace and come from IRC or AOL bring a different culture with them. For example on AOL, it is considered normal/acceptable behavior to continually spout the following lines:

  • "M or F?"
  • "Age/Location Check?"
  • "Any SWFs out there?"

Certainly this type of behavior is not worthy of being kicked, but if you would like to see less of it on the Palace perhaps you can do what many people do and provide utterly inappropriate replies, such as "I am a zygote, and I live in a tea kettle".

Utterly Clueless Some users are so clueless that they do things that can be interpreted as abusive even though they don't intend to. Some new users, for example, habitually hit the return key twice (kind of like hitting the elevator button twice). They may do unexpected things like wearing nude props at the front gate. Such users are in need of education, rather than reprimands. There have been instances where such users also didn't know English (which exacerbates the problem). A glance at the IP address is a good idea if you think this might be the case.

Parodists Some users reproduce the behaviors of other abusive types in an attempt at humor. There's been at least one instance where a tired wizard, weary from a session of endless kills, killed such a user without warning. Perhaps this is why there is a sign at the airport asking you to refrain from talking about bombs at the metal detector. This is another good reason why it is good to talk to users before killing them. The point is that after you've met and killed 13 Psychotics, it is easy to pigeonhole people - especially Guests who are wearing the same props. Don't. The "15 yr old psychotic" you are killing may actually be a 45 year old psychiatrist.

Sleepers and Ghosts Sleepers are users who have walked away from their computers. Sleepers are completely unresponsive. For the most part, sleeper's should be ignored (not killed) unless the sleeper is in a private room. In this case the sleeper should be warned, given 20 minutes, and then killed. The reason for the private room is because the sleeper may be an eavesdropper. 20 minutes is needed to insure that the sleeper isn't simply lagging. When killing a sleeper it is important to use a death penatly of zero when killing them. For example:
    'kill 0 Sleepy
There have been instances where a presumed sleeper was killed who turned out to be lagging. Because the "default" death penalty was used, the user wasn't able to get back on.

A ghost is like a sleeper, but their computer may have disconnected in a nasty way for example, due to a local power failure. A good way for a wizard to test this is to use ;allscray to get the user to say something if they respond to allscray, their computer is still connected. Sometimes the finger script can be used for the same purpose.
If you are a wizard with an asterisk leading your name (e.g, *Dr.X), and the room has ;allscray or ;ao, try whispering this to a suspected ghost:

    ;ao "I'm Here" SAY
Eavesdroppers An eavesdropper typically waits in one of the private rooms or in Hallway 200 and attempts to eavesdrop on private conversations in the bedrooms. Eavesdroppers typically use "invisible" props and have very brief names such as "." or "l" or " ". Thus far, for the most part, eavesdroppers have been ignored, but it is a good idea to warn other users about them from time to time. The best way to detect an eavesdropper is to keep an eye on the number of users as shown in the status bar. An eavesdropper who won't leave a private room when requested should be warned, and killed, if necessary (see Sleepers above).

Blockers or Cyberfrotteurs Blockers stand in front of other users, or invade their personal space. For the most part, jbum thinks that Blockers should not be killed, and if you really feel it is necessary, he suggests killing them for a short period of time (say 1 minute). Often blockers are lagging, and they may not be responsive to your commands for that reason.
Since blockers are abusing physical space, it is appropriate to `pin them, if they're obviously doing it to be obnoxious. This is one of the few instances where `pin is appropiate (It is not appropriate to use `pin if someone is abusing the language only).

A note here about `pin. When a user is `pinned down in the corner, his props are stripped off and a new prop is placed on him. That prop might look like chains, but let's call it what is really is: a diaper. When the naughty user learns to be a big boy and put his potty where it belongs, he doesn't have to wear the diaper any more.

There, that's a good boy. Daddy is proud.

The botbot provides shove and mv commands that can also be used on many blockers they simply move the offending user to some less obtrusive location.

Friends I have seen at least two occasions where a wizard has killed a friend as a joke. Don't.

Hackers There have been a few dedicated hackers, people who have strived to duplicate or subvert the palace's registration scheme; to get the client software to do things it wasn't meant to; to become "false wizards;" or to outright steal (usually through deception) other users' registration numbers. If caught, it's usually wise to quickly dispatch these people.

Gangstaz Several "gang" groups have sprouted up over the past moons, most notably the Legion (and to some minds, the ?Magus). At thier height, some of these groups have even loosely allied themselves, usually around the common battle cry of "death to the wizards!"
As far as I've been able to discern, these groups have been composed mainly (entirely?) of children. Most wish they were hackers. Some may be mistaking their association with a Palace "gang" for association with a Quake Clan. They come and go in much the same way that other cliques and groupings of teenagers usually do fairly spontaneously. They gain a sense of power from their numbers (witness the common "snert storm" onslaughts around school break times), and often share expertise between them expertise gained from relentless attempts to hack and subvert the palace software and the culture of large sites. While annoying, sometimes these groups reveal new ideas or discover security holes. For all their arrogance and surface hostility, they also bring a lot of dynamism. One real downside: they are sometimes involved in scams.

Rabble Rousers and Political Paranoids Every gang has at its core a masta gangsta. Sometime the group collapses without this scion; other times it lionizes him if he's banned. And there are many would-be gang leaders out there, too usually members who are bitter about not being a wizard, or about any number of other social woes, and think that by attacking the Palace, and inciting outhers to do the same, they are somehow improving the world or more likely their place in it.
Often, they mistake the Palace (and especially Communiteis.com itself) as some sort of symbol for the entirety of industrialized society, and likewise mistake wizzes bumping them off the server for genuine jurisprudence. This is a big fat red herring, and you shouldn't fall for it. Palace is no court of law, and the rights that a criminal defendant may be guaranteed have little, if anything, to do directly with the "rights" of a palace user.
Since these people often see themselves as some sort of tiny folk hero (and often declare themselves above the law in great self-righteous rants), they are easily engaged if they think you want to hear their New World Plan. This is one way to waste your time if you don't feel that `gag or `kill is (yet) appropriate.
A common element of this rant is the notion that the rabble rouser is outside the jurisdiction of either California/Oregon statutes (various Communities.com servers are in California or Oregon), or of US statues, etc... either because the Rabble Rouser is located in Australia or Quebec, or because they believe that they have some sort of cloak of anonymity that will protect them. Don't fall for it. Attacks (and many RRs do attempt to incite others into aggravated denial-of-service attacks, or particpation in scams) can be prosecuted at the location of the victim, not just the attacker. This is known in legal circles as "Objective Jurisdiction" and was most spectacularly demonstrated in the Manuel Noriega case.
Another common rant is "Freedom of Speech," in which the snert asserts he's got the right to send anyone any message, any time even profane personal attacks. This is simply false, and no owner of any palace site is required to provide the net bandwidth for such a jerk to use as a soapbox. U.S. citizen or not. Taxpayer or (usually) not.
A bizarre recent variant of this have been snerts who declare themselves postmodern and hence anything they have to say is inherently intelligent and meta-informed, while their detractors are conveniently ignored as tools of the Old Order. These are essentially 90's versions of the sort of ineffectual twits one used to see during the 1970's mumbling about how things would change after "the revolution, man." In some cases, they are perhaps even the same people, hacking up the same tired ideological hairballs.
Yet one more mistaken immunity that some snerts claim is that they are minors, and therefore free from direct prosecution, and therefore free to do any stupid thing that they so please. As if!
While it only sometimes makes an impression, it may sometimes help to quote to some snerts passages from their own ISP Terms of Service Agreements. Often you can find the text of such an agreement by checking to see if the snert's ISP has a master web site, such as "http://www.someISPname.com/". The ToS is usually printed right there. As you might expect, in most cases deliberate snert behavior is a violation of the ToS, a contract that you already know the snert had to have signed.

Rogue Robots As far as I know, this has only happened once. And only one wizard was killed by the robot. The less said about that, the better ^_^;;

Impostors Impostors at the Main Palace sites are easily (and often) caught especially since one of the most-common impostor targets are well-known wizards. The impostors may try to pull stupid stunts as someone else, to alienate or cause scandal for that user for example, by running around insulting someone's friends while wearing that persons' name and distinctive props.
At main palace, it's generally been considered a "terminal offense" to go about impersonating wizards, largely because wizard impostoring is often part of a scam. In many cases, the administrators of the impostor's ISP have also been contacted (and in some rare cases, the impostor's parents).
Non-wizard members are also often impersonated particularly, it seems, members prominent in groups like the ?Magus or occasionally by impostors who seem to think they will play some sort of sexual-intimacy mind game on the unwitting victims, ie propositioning someone for cybersex under an assumed palace identity. This is extreme harrassment in my book, and the offender should be toasted without compunction.

Impostors shouldn't be confused with cyberspace gendernauts. If you want to present yourself as any particular gender (or none), so what?
It's easy for anyone to spot an impostor wiz, because the impostor can't put on the "badge": an asterisk as the first character of their name (e.g., *saintj). At Main, all wizards will always don their badge if asked. They will never say "not now." And no, there are no bitter, disgruntled ex-wizards lurking incognito, either. Believe me, one of the hardest things for a wiz to do is to hide from the other wizards.
A few wizard impersonators, thinking themselves very clever, have made tiny props containing the * to place in front of their names. These props don't work except on their computer, because they can never know if the person viewing them has the same fonts or has names turned on; and no prop asterisk will ever appear in the log.
It's even easier for a wizard to spot an impostor because a wiz can examine the IP addresses and unique member registration keystamps. Some wizards (not naming names....) keep very, very, detailed records, and can spot an alias from a mile off.
A particularly difficult kind of impostoring to control is pretending to be someone at a different site. There have been plenty of cases of fake jbums, fake horses, and others appearing at random small palace sites and usually making a lot of pointless threats or insulting comments. Fortunately, such instances have always been quickly resolved by the local wizards at those sites (who as often as not have been the direct targets of such attacks).

Scam Artists There are a few simple scams that can (and have) been run on palace sites.

The AOL Scam
So named because it seems to have originated at AOL (or at least first gained notoriety in the public press there). A new member (the victim) is greeted by another member (the scammer), working as a fraud or an impostor. The scam artist informs the victim that they are either a wizard, or some other Communities.com employee, or a Netcom employee, an ex-wizard, etc. They then ask the new member for information particularly the new member's registration key, occasionally even Visa #'s, real name, ISP info, and the like. The scammer then vanishes with the stolen information, which they can then pass on to their little snert pals or use to prevent the victim from subsequent logins.
A variation of this scam has also been used on more-established users the snert tells them that they have been chosen to be a wizard (sometimes by lottery, of all things). The snert promises to make them a wizard once they tell him their registration number....
It's important to remember: fraud is not just jerk behavior, it's a crime, even in cyberspace. And password theft/forgery is a specific crime in many states. So are "denial of service" crimes, which violate U.S. communications laws going back to the 1930's.

The Picture Scam
A few people have reported scam artists who work mouch more like "traditional" confidence artists becoming apparently-close personal friends, then turning ill-got personal information against the victim. In one notorious case, a user (who may have been a man, but advertised as a bisexual woman) was actually collecting nude photos of users photos sent by the users who thought they were emailing intimate gifts to a friend. In fact, the scammer was taking the photos and posting them on a pay-per-view web site.
Unfortunately, there's not much a wizard can do about this sort of scam. In the above case, the scammer had her cover blown, but there wasn't much more that the wizards could do other than warn other potential victims.

This writer has no tolerance for scam artists. `pin `gag `kill `ban and send a nasty note to their ISP.

True Stalkers So far, these have been few and far between. Like various poseur gangstaz, stalkers may believe that they are immune to U.S. Statutes regarding communications or stalking in general. This is very stupid. Stalking is a crime in the U.S. and and one state (Delaware) even considers a first offense to be a felony. Therefore a responsible wizard should take the furthest available step call not only the snert stalker's ISP into play, but the stalker's local police department as well.
Such an action can be very upsetting to the wiz. Like anyone, they log onto chat systems to have fun, to talk with friends, to unwind. It's not a comfortable thing to have that simple recreation turned into a crime scene. But better to take such actions right away than to live down the alternatives.