Noise-to-signal ratio

The core of the problem can be summed up using Brandolini’s Law:

“The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than is needed to produce it.”

This is also known as the ‘bullshit asymmetry principle’, and actually highlights a fundamental issue with internet (anonymous) communication. Things are going to get worse with algorithms like GPT-3.

It’s these types of answers that neccessitate corrections–those who wish to see the forum do well have to take the effort to correct false claims that can be thrown out there with little thought. This is a quick way to exhaust resources. Since this is an infosec forum at its core, I’m not going to shy away from the implications for the sake of maintaining pleasantness–a determined adversary can subtly flood a forum with bullshit using various accounts, making extra mods needed, then volunteer to mod and cause more trouble that way. Or they can do it as a means to some other ends. Or they can do it for the shits and giggles.


Glad to see this discussion. For all I know my posts are the subject of this thread (and I’d like to think everyone has thought about that themselves).

Absolutely agree for “technical” questions. Less certain about feedback/discussions as this post should indicate :wink:

Sounds ominous, especially if searchers and lurkers outweigh posters

Just to offer a possibly different perspective, I started reading the forum early but only engaged because I was unable to read the tangential category (and found some of the non tech support topics interesting).

IMO people transiting are less of a concern, at this point at least afaik, than denizens providing wrong but authoritative-sounding answers without correction and unclear community expectations.

Expecting respondents to amend their answers will probably lead to further frustration. If you’re motivated, informed replies might help.

Really glad you didn’t. I’d hate to see the departure of clueful participants or worse.

Since I don’t have the answer here’s a potentially relevant link.

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I was here a year ago when we were mooting the creation of the locked forum. If I remember correctly, there’s no issue with opening the tangential category so the general public can read it, but there’s no way to do it in a read-only format on this platform (Discourse). Back then I wondered to myself if this would lead to perverse incentives (spam posting to move up the ranks). It seems it has.

Thanks for bringing this up–this just might lead to something.


Edit: Turns out the conversation happened 9 months ago–not quite a year.

Found the thread and some relevant posts:

Regarding why there isn’t read-only access to the All Around Qubes subforum:


Some thoughts I had during the subforum’s planning phase:

Here I want to bring up what I wrote at the time, about how “those who participate must have, in a non-trivial way, demonstrated an interest in Qubes and positive contribution to discussions” (emphasis added). A system that judges who’s been naughty and who’s been nice is one that is inherently subjective, but after a year (okay, 9 months) of All Around Qubes, it feels like we’re at a point where we can decide if trying to keep the door open via an automated mechanism is worth it.

I don’t think it is–If we switch from this automated mechanism to one where mods and others manually review those who have reached a certain level periodically (say, once every quarter), noise and spammy behavior motivated by access to the fabled hidden forum gets removed (there’s nothing special going on in there, just in case anyone reading is wondering). As a bonus, we might also improve the quality and quantity of discussion in the All Around Qubes subforum.

A post was split to a new topic: Threads Asking For Help Get Buried If They Don’t Gain Traction / Get Bumped

I was not greatly in favour of the forum - I thought it would kill the
mailing lists and would reproduce everything worst about Reddit. In some
areas, it has.
My kill file grows daily.

Mailing list interactions are also an issue, but I think having some outlet for the infosec tangents which naturally comes with discussing Qubes could bring surprise benefits to the project, of course assuming a certain level of quality is reached in terms of both communication skills and critical thinking.

This is why I’m now humbly proposing nuking the current subforum and its users (‘humbly’ and ‘nuking’ don’t really belong together, but oh well), ending the use of Discourse’s Lounge template on which the current forum is based, which is based around Discourse’s automated level system, and switching to manually vetting who to let into the subforum (once a certain level of participation has been reached) once a quarter. Steps must be taken, though, to ensure we don’t end up with some sort of echo chamber.

I don’t think this is as much work as it sounds, as few have reached Level 3 this year, and it doesn’t seem like we’ll have a deluge of Level 3s in the foreseeable future.

@fiftyfourthparallel if I understand you correctly your theory is that some users have engaged in unnecessary low quality posting to reach level 3 faster in order to gain access to “All About Qubes”.

I see some truth in this, but actually think that it has less to do with the “All About Qubes” category, but the gamified nature of Discourse. My personal impression is that the vast majority of forum users have engaged until they reached a certain level of badges and/or level and then disengaged. To go even further: in my unscientific, subjective perception this can be pretty exactly pinpointed to the anniversary.

However, I oppose your proposal to make “All About Qubes” even more “closed” then it already is. That’s very much the wrong direction in my opinion. What are we trying to do here?

  1. have a low barrier to entry and serve a generation of people uncomfortable with mailing lists
  2. grow the Qubes OS community and be welcoming and helpful to everyone
  3. with the “All About Qubes” category: harness this community to encourage further related thought and learning

The forum has been very successful seen from this perspective. With having a larger audience and lower barriers naturally the “noise” increases. It is a problem no question, but it’s one we need to address without loosing the advantages.

By my nature, I would be most happy with a mailing list/newsgroup, hanging with the guru’s and filtering out any nuisance with a killfile. BUT, this is not about what’s most fun for me. The reason I use the forum and spend this amount of time with it is to grow the Qubes OS community and ease entry for new users. I need Qubes OS to be healthy, grow and be around for a very long time. The more people use it, the more people will donate/contribute/convince others to try Qubes OS. THIS is why we have a forum – right?


I forgot that we have a moderator just for the subforum I just proposed razing, so I must apologize if I offended you or caused you distress–this suggestion in no way stems from your competence or aptitude at the task. In fact, I’d be perfectly fine if you were automatically allowed to moderate whatever replaces the demolished subforum (if any).

Easing entry for new users is a practical and noble goal that should be among the key goals of this forum, but I don’t see how it’s relevant to a subforum requiring Level 2 to access, especially when all the user support categories are unrestricted.

The problem with having a part of the forum where typical users can’t enter is twofold–people want to know what’s in a sealed box, and people want to belong to exclusive groups. These desires can compel some to behave in less-than-desirable ways, especially since its unlocking is linked to the gamification of Discourse with achievements (badges), so they see this as a game, with behavior to match.

I disagree that it’s the achievements that are driving this; it’s the actual, tangible reward of getting into a restricted area. However it doesn’t mean we can’t harness this desire for our benefit, and a subforum for tangential discussions on infosec etc. can bring unexpected benefits to the project on top of being informative–this is why I propose using manual review, which is less effortful than it sounds.

What I want the subforum to more closely resemble are highly curated forums that generate authoritative content on their subjects. An extreme example is the one linked below, where the owner personally moderates by reading through every submitted comment before allowing them to appear and often returns to threads later to delete comments retroactively deemed irrelevant:

It’s a pity there aren’t more of these forums.

More detail in separate topic here

I would like to propose another method:

  • everyone can sign up and post including the “All About Qubes” category
  • I continue to moderate it (with the help of other leaders)
  • users who don’t follow the CoC or post stuff that doesn’t belong on the forum or in that category get warned and when it happens again blocked.

I’d be willing to give this a try. In the time this category exists I can count all moderating actions taken on one hand. So maybe it’s more restrictive than it has to be. If it doesn’t work, we can always go back to how it is now.

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A post was merged into an existing topic: Opening up the “All around Qubes” category

This is exactly what I was originally suggesting in our original “All Around Qubes” discussion. I don’t think there is any good reason or utility in creating exclusive groups. I’m happy to help moderating it.

Don’t kill the public forum.

I believe that this is no different than FSF and Open Source who would talk about “libre” back then.

“Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement.”

We have better sollution like Nina said back then.

To those who advocate openness, please read the original discussion where the conclusion to restrict the forum was made. I will link it again for your convenience:

Please read through before continuing. To check your understanding, please answer the following question:

What were the reasons behind the decision to restrict the subforum?

I hope you don’t mind how I’m going about this–I think it is reasonable to ask people to at least read and understand an issue before taking up or supporting certain positions.

I believe that people who “quite” is reading, thread tittle is make it clear, and what message contains.

It is also impossible they don’t see this thread. My hope is to affect some positive change without addressing any specific person.

If it was a question for me, my answer is to what the main discussion asked.

Opening a new thread is recommended to avoid confusion.

Thank you for making part of my point for me.

I actively participated in that discussion. In my view the only reason was fear of spam, off-topic and misbehavior of new users. I disagree that fear should dictate what to do. Trust in users will bring better fruit.

Yes, you did. In fact my whole post about manpower being an issue was a direct reply to you, and you even wrote a relatively-lengthy reply to me in which you failed to adequately address my concern.

For some reason ‘manpower’ was left out of your list of reasons. I can’t speak for the mods, but I see it as one of the biggest and most obvious reasons.

I’m not against your idealism and optimism, but they must ultimately be grounded in hard reality. Trying to fly without the proper technology is a Greek tragedy waiting to happen.

Thank you for the reminder. In my view, this reason is the same fear that I mentioned. Yes, it might result in more work for moderators, but

  1. you don’t have reliable data to prove that it will have a big effect;
  2. the whole reason of moderator work is to bring new users, so it is a reasonable work;
  3. currently, there are more than 2 moderators: we both can help and there are more Leaders and Regulars now.

Allow me to add my small contribution to this conversation about the importance of this forum. I argue that this forum should be an integral part of Qubes OS “reasonably secure” approach. Qubes OS without accessible information is less reasonably secure. The Qubes website extensive documentation provide one part of the equation. This forum provides an essential and irreplaceable part.

Practically speaking, I described here on of my first problems with Qubes:

I had a problem that no one seems to have ever faced. My system was no longer bootable. Looking for a solution to save my data, I searched online using the words in front of me, and found on some forum instructions that did get Qubes operational again. I edited something way deep in the system via dracut pre-boot. Qubes OS booted and I’m convinced that the isolation was broken.

It could be that some Qubes OS exploits need multiple steps and require misleading the user into taking some of these steps.

All this to say that this forum would have given me a better answer to my problem than a post on a some forum on the Internet.

Thank you.