I know this reeks of witch-hunting, but... I have a hunch that u/Eugine_Nier is back under the guise of u/Azathoth123. Reasons:

  •  Same political views, with a tendency to be outspoken about them
  • Karma hovering in the 70s% for both accounts, occasionally going into the 60s%, significantly lower than the LW average
  • The dates match up. Kaj Sotala announced on July 03, 2014 that Eugine was to be permanently banned. The first comment from Azathoth123 was on July 12, 2014.
  • The one that got my attention was the posting pattern. Particularly, Eugine_Nier had a pervasive pattern of exceeding the quote limits per rationality thread. That's actually the first thing I had noticed about the guy back when he was first active, and a few times I thought about drawing attention to the way he flouted the rules, but never got around to it/cared enough about the matter. Now, I see Azathoth123 doing the same thing. The current Rationality Quotes thread has four quotes from him already and it hasn't even been a week since the thread was posted; all of them have something to do with his political views. As do basically all of his postings so far.
  • Each one of these points, separately, has a small prior probability if the two of them are not the same person. Together, they have an even smaller probability. Especially the predilection for posting one too many rationality quotes; seriously, how common an occurrence is that one in particular?
  • My experience so far with the internet has been that people like Eugine never really leave an online community they have pestered for so long. It doesn't matter if they're IP banned or something. They always come back, just under a different name, and they come back shortly.

I don't have an axe to grind against the guy, I've only spoken to him a couple of times and didn't notice any particularly large karma hits afterwards, I just really dislike it when someone skirts the rules like that. Disruptive users evading permanent bans never helped any community ever.

Obviously I'm posting this here because I think a moderator should look into the matter. Usually I would be posting a disclaimer of some sort, apologizing in advance to Azathoth123 for attacking his standing with slanderous accusations if this turned out not to be the case. Well, I won't. The more I look into the matter, the more confident I get that they're the same person. Azathoth, if you're reading this and you're not Eugine_Nier, then I strongly advise you go search for your twin brother, I think you'll get along very well. Seriously, I'm saying this in good faith. You have a suspiciously great deal of things in common.

If retributive downvoting is (still) a concern (if not, then disregard this paragraph): I'd like to request, if such a thing is possible, that a mod karma-blocks me until the issue is over, so as to not incur undeserved downvotes (it would also mean I'd get no upvotes). In turn, I promise not to abuse the system by spamming the boards with garbage without consequences, but then again given my history so far on LW I don't think that such an abuse should be expected from me. For the record, I could have made a throwaway account just to say this, and not risk being karmassassinated, but 1) a zero karma account has no credibility and 2) for signalling reasons I prefer to put my money where my mouth is.

P.S. I only made this announcement its own post because the latest open thread was about to "expire".


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70 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 8:08 PM

Both accounts' SSC comments come from the same IP.

Eh, I don't mind someone using a different account, as long as they don't repeat the behavior that got them banned originally.

Well, I'm not advocating for the new account to get banned either; it's just that as far as I'm aware most places have rules against evading bans, and LW doesn't seem to have a clear-cut policy on such situations. I just thought the community should be aware, and then it's up to mods to discuss the matter and take action if they so choose.

You are the fourth or fifth person who has reached the same suspicion, as far I as know, independently. Which of course is moderate additional Bayesian evidence for its truth (at the very least, it means you are seeing a objective pattern even if it turns out to be coincidental, instead of being paranoid or deluded)

I propose a new version of the Turing test: An AI is as smart as a human when it can figure out which new poster on a message board is actually the same person as an old poster who got banned. :)

This is an old problem, see e.g.:


for special cases. Both google and facebook are very interested in versions of this problem.

I don't think this is actually a difficult problem. Some simple machine learning on word frequencies, bigram frequencies, etc. will be probably enough to solve it.

Friend of mine did it via computational complexity: using gzip (as an approximation for KC) for attributing classical latin literature to their respective authors by checking which strings add the least additional complexity (due to shared writing styles, word choice, etc.) when compressed together and then clustering. Worked like a charm.

ETA: These were large bodies of text, however. Probably not gonna work for a bundle of comments, except for me, due to my overuse of "obviously", obviously.

I thought this was pretty impressive:

We study techniques for identifying an anonymous author via linguistic stylometry, i.e., comparing the writing style against a corpus of texts of known authorship. We experimentally demonstrate the effectiveness of our techniques with as many as 100,000 candidate authors.


In experiments where we match a sample of just 3 blog posts against the rest of the posts from that blog (mixed in with 100,000 other blogs), the nearest-neighbor/RLSC combination is able to identify the correct blog in about 20% of cases; in about 35% of cases, the correct blog is one of the top 20 guesses. Via confidence estimation, we can increase precision from 20% to over 80% with a recall of 50%, which means that we identify 50% of the blogs overall compared to what we would have if we always made a guess.

The efficacy of the attack varies based on the number of labeled and anonymous posts available. Even with just a single post in the anonymous sample, we can identify the correct author about 7.5% of the time (without any confidence estimation). When the number of available posts in the sample increases to 10, we are able to achieve a 25% accuracy. Authors with

... (read more)
Difference was one of scale. Much easier when just taking three dozen? pieces of classical latin literature, some of which were different parts of the same opus magnum, then see them cluster to their respective authors and to the other parts of the same piece. More of a "put the pieces into the box" [http://www.dhresource.com/albu_379379557_00-1.0x0/child-puzzle-toy-box-plastic-building-blocks.jpg] as opposed to a 100,000 pieces puzzle. In the latter case, you just know most of the puzzle pieces will either show the blue sky, or the blue sea, both a similar shade of blue.
Commenting to 'save' this comment. That's a really clever way to handle that.
KC = Kolmogorov Complexity?
Yeap, the paper linked in my other comment explains how it works.
gzip is a "crude upper bound" on KC, and afaik there is no known bound on the error. EDIT: I'm pretty sure the following result isn't even true: If KC(x) < KC(y), then gzip(x) < gzip(y). Or even quantitatively weaker variants of the same.
There can't be, since KC isn't computable (could be mistaken on that in itself precluding a (edit:) lower error bound). It's still kinda nice and works on a similar principle (and also, somewhat, in practice). Let's plug the Hutter prize [http://prize.hutter1.net/] while we're at it, for the 5 people reading this. Also, just saw a cool paper which kinda describes the same principle, here [http://homepages.cwi.nl/~paulv/papers/cluster.pdf].
KC may not be uncomputable in general, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't preclude all possible proofs or constructions*, and it seems odd to say that there is no upper bounds when we have what sure look like such things. * I have just invented a Scheme-like programming language in which all tokens except numbers are 2 alphanumeric characters long; what is the Kolmogorov complexity of the bitstring '1'? 'Who knows, KC is uncomputable -' Bzzt! The answer is that the KC is exactly 1, since the shortest program which emits the bitstring '1' is a program consisting of the constant '1' which evaluates to '1', which as you can see, is indeed of length 1, and all other programs emitting the bitstring '1' are longer by definition. Or if you don't like that example, consider taking your favorite language and enumerating all possible programs in length order; consider the outputs of the programs you've just enumerated when evaluated up to the highest available Busy Beaver in steps (to avoid nontermination issues), and the respective lengths of outputs - have you not found the KC for those outputs? If you run gzip over the outputs to get estimated KCs, are those not upper bounds on the actual KCs you proved?
Computing upper bounds on on Kolmogorov Complexity is not very difficult: gzip and all the other compression algorithms do it. The difficulty is computing non-trivial lower bounds: For all programming languages (with a self-terminating encoding), there is a trivial lower bound that doesn't depend on the string. This bound is at least one token. But there is also a language-dependent constant L_max which is the maximum KC complexity and lower bound on KC complexity that you can compute for any string: L_max is the length of the shortest program for which the halting property is uncomputable ( * ) (which makes L_max is uncomputable as well). This implies that you can compute the KC complexity only for a finite number of strings. ( * And doesn't provably emit any token)
There is no such thing as "the shortest program for which the halting property is uncomputable". That property is computable trivially for every possible program. What's uncomputable is always the halting problem for an infinity of programs using one common algorithm. It is also easy to make up artificial languages in which Kolmogorov complexity is computable for an infinite subset of all possible strings. You were probably thinking of something else: that there exists a constant L, which depends on the language and a proof system T, such that it's not possible to prove in T that any string has Kolmogorov complexity larger than L. That is true. In particular, this means that there's a limit to lower bounds we can establish, although we don't know what that limit is.
The halting property is semi-decidable: if a program halts, then you can always trivially prove that it halts, you just need run it. If a program does not halt, then sometimes you can prove that it doesn't halt, and sometimes you can't prove anything. For any programming language, there exist a length such that you can compute the halting property for all programs shorter than that. At length L_max, there will be program Bad_0, which: * Does not halt. * Can't be proven not to halt. * Doesn't emit any output symbol. * It can't be proven that there exist any string of output symbols that it doesn't emit. You can never prove that any string S has Kolmogorov complexity K if K > L_max, as it would imply that you proved that Bad_0 doesn't halt, or at least doesn't emit any symbol which is not a prefix of S. Since there are only finitely many strings with complexity up to L_max, we can only compute Kolmogorov complexity, for finitely many strings. If the language is Turing-complete I don't think this is possible. If you think that an arbitrary string S has complexity K, how can you prove that there exist no program shorter than K that computes S?
Yea, only talking about the general case. Even the Halting Problem is usually computable in daily life, just by running the program (ETA: and seeing it terminate). Watch the program run See it die before your eyes Halting Problem? Solved!
Exactly. So why bother saying gzip is an approximation of KC? (I assume: because KC is a well-known theoretical object with good properties, and one shouldn't let the fact that none of these properties carry over to gzip ruin one's chance of getting published cheaply.)
Because gzip is being used to measure complexity. That's literally the reason they used gzip and not, I don't know, rot13. It's an explanation of the causal role that gzip is playing in the whole process.
No. "gzip is being used to measure complexity" is an explanation of the causal role that gzip is playing in this study. "gzip is an approximation of KC" is either 1) flatly not true, see edit to grandparent or 2) not relevant to the study at all.
And while we're at it, why do we even care about Turing Machines, it's not like we could ever build one anyways. ;-) goes back to tending his potato garden

I downvoted this post not because I hate you, or because I love Eugine_Nier (o), but because I'd like to see fewer post like this one in the future. And I think that expressing my sentiment is what the "Downvote" button is for.

More specifically, I don't think that public shaming and witch hunts belong on Less Wrong, even when the person being hunted is actually a witch (oo). I think that the toxic culture such tactics create is likely to be more harmful than individual unruly posters, in the long term.

(o) I don't even remember who he is, though the name does sound familiar.
(oo) Metaphorically speaking.

I am fairly sure that Azathoth123 downvotes comments that he disagrees with just because he disagrees with them, even when he is responding, which seems a bit rude if you are going to engage someone.

That's indeed rude, but not unusual. It's the mass downvoting that was the real issue.

It is something Eugine did. I think Unkown's point is that it is additional evidence that this is Eugine.

Right, that makes sense.

I also think it was wrong / overly risky to write this up publicly, unless you've contacted moderators personally first and found them unresponsive.

unless you've contacted moderators personally first and found them unresponsive

I admit that this pretty much happened, only instead of "unresponsive" it was "responded, but then did nothing". :(

See also this.

3Peter Wildeford8y
Fair enough. Sorry then.

Alright, but

1) Overly risky for whom? I personally don't feel I have exposed myself to any risk other than vindictive downvoting, and if that happens (it hasn't yet) I trust that the resulting karma issues won't affect my participation much.

2) As far as I know LW doesn't have a well set-up report & moderation system. I even searched for the official rules of conduct and only found a page on what people should not talk about (not on how they should behave generally, or the policy for bans and banned members). I don't remember seeing a list of all the mods on LW or which of them is currently online. Even Viliam Bur said here that it might take even mods a long time to get to the bottom of such an issue.

3) Some people who have an interest in knowing this (e.g. people who have been the targets of mass downvoting) might have been duped otherwise, and I view this as an intrinsically bad thing.

0Peter Wildeford8y
For being wrong. - That's true, and fair.
That's not a person. Again, who is being put at risk?
  • The counterfactual u/Azathoth123 in the worlds where u/Azathoth123 and Eugine_Nier are different people.
  • The entire LW community, should this turn into a witchhunt (which it didn't).

Thanks for saving me the effort of writing a full-length "J'accuse!".

I would retract and contact the moderator regarding your suspicion. See http://lesswrong.com/lw/kza/meta_new_lw_moderator_viliam_bur/

I already contacted Viliam_Bur with this suspicion a few months ago, and I doubt I'm the first. I'm assuming Viliam either doesn't feel he has sufficient evidence to act, doesn't feel that any action is warranted, or is too busy to follow up on this at the moment. Yvain's comment below is a new piece of (fairly conclusive) evidence. Maybe that will impact the situation if Viliam felt he had insufficient evidence previously, so it might be worth drawing his attention to this thread.

One of the problems with moderation is that cooperation with LW admins is very slow. As in: extremely slow. Which means: even more slow than you imagine after reading this. Certainly much slower than I imagined when volunteering for this role.

Using my own moderator powers, all I have is a "Ban user" button which can ban a user. (And a corresponding "Unban user" button.) That is the whole moderator user interface as far as I know. If I am wrong, please educate me.

So, my options as this moment are: (a) ban Azathoth123 because I feel sufficiently convinced that he is a reincarnation of Eugine Nier, or (b) send an e-mail asking for more evidence, and wait literally forever, or (c) ignore the whole thing. From the outside, options "b" and "c" seem indistinguishable, and... well, how much happy would you be if I started using the option "a" as a general strategy?

What would really help me at this moment:

Someone with knowledge of Python and SQL, willing to cooperate with me for a few weeks (an hour or two every week). The task would be: reading and analyzing a few already written scripts to understand how exactly the data are stored in data... (read more)

7Eliezer Yudkowsky8y
I tried a negative karma award so he couldn't downvote and was told "Karma awards must be greater than zero." I don't know where a "Ban user" button is.
As a moderator, when you look at someone else's comment, there should be an additional option between "Permalink" and "Get notifications" buttons. (Parent, Reply, Permalink, Ban, Notifications.) If you click it, it will change to "Unban".

Found the correct control. For mods, the link is:

And Azathoth123 is out. It's not very good, but it's the best I can do - I encourage everyone to help Viliam make the software support better.

5Eliezer Yudkowsky8y
That only bans the comment, not the user!
http://lesswrong.com/r/lesswrong/about/banned/ [http://lesswrong.com/r/lesswrong/about/banned/] http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/about/banned/ [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/about/banned/] (These links only work for logged-in moderators.)
Fair enough. Just wanted to let you know that although my comment might have sounded judgmental it genuinely wasn't intended that way. From my perspective, all three reasons for inaction I listed are perfectly legitimate and not deserving of criticism. I'm still not sure whether any concrete action is necessary, although at this point I am virtually certain that it is a Eugine sock puppet.

I should have asked for help sooner. I should have updated sooner that the help will be necessary.

At this moment, I already have a few volunteers, and... uhm, I guess I will publicly ask for help again if the situation is not solved until 1.1.2015.

Alright, I was looking for a way to report posts or contact moderators and couldn't find any, thanks for the link. But why retract?
No problem. I would have retracted because of the significant downside if you happened to be wrong. Though it's still possible, I'm not really worried about it anymore given Yvain's comment.
PSA: Dahlen may be wanted in Argentina for absconding with 43 llamas. I have nothing against Dahlen, but you should guard your ungulates! EDIT Retracted for publizing unconfirmed rumors
P̶S̶A̶:̶ ̶D̶a̶h̶l̶e̶n̶ ̶m̶a̶y̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶w̶a̶n̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶A̶r̶g̶e̶n̶t̶i̶n̶a̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶a̶b̶s̶c̶o̶n̶d̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶4̶3̶ ̶l̶l̶a̶m̶a̶s̶.̶ ̶ ̶I̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶g̶a̶i̶n̶s̶t̶ ̶h̶i̶m̶,̶ ̶b̶u̶t̶ ̶d̶o̶n̶'̶t̶ ̶t̶r̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶h̶i̶m̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶u̶n̶g̶u̶l̶a̶t̶e̶s̶!̶ E̶D̶I̶T̶:̶ (̶c̶o̶m̶m̶e̶n̶t̶ ̶r̶e̶t̶r̶a̶c̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶p̶o̶s̶s̶i̶b̶l̶y̶ ̶s̶t̶a̶r̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶b̶a̶s̶e̶l̶e̶s̶s̶ ̶r̶u̶m̶o̶r̶s̶)̶
Heh. Wouldn't know about Argentina, but newspapers in SimNation [http://sims.wikia.com/wiki/Llama] are all over it. In all seriousness though, my claim is a) supported by arguments; b) somewhat relevant to the community; c) not an accusation tantamount to calumny (having a sock is neither illegal nor morally outrageous). The cases aren't even remotely comparable. Also, there are at least a few people who might be interested in knowing this, if true, and few people who would be interested in covering up the whole business. If not true, then at the very most the "two" of them might "find a valuable conversation partner" in "each other". (Scare-quoted because I highly doubt that is the case.)