Reflections on Animal Training & Blogging

So, when I worked at the Aquarium I was sent overseas for a training course on animal training over in Texas. One of the key bits of training that we learned was that if the animal is doing a behaviour you don’t want to encourage, then you just ignore it. Giving it any attention, even negative attention, comes across as a reward to the animal and reinforces the behaviour in question. Instead, by ignoring it and rewarding the behaviour you do want to encourage, you will ‘kill off’ the behaviour in question and reinforce the behaviour you want.

As humans this training can indeed work. However humans have a much more developed cognitive system and the ability for ethical thought. We can reason amongst ourselves and act as adults.

What’s the point of me saying all this? Well, because of situations like the Online Discourse thread (where I have found it necessary to delete certain posts as per my moderation policy). Despite what some people think, I am NOT at a computer moderating this blog all day and all night. I have a much more interesting life beyond this blog. My decision to even allow comments on this site is a PRIVILEGE to readers because I think that in general the ability to do so is a benefit to ALL of us. My decision to return to a more hands-off moderation policy is a further PRIVILEGE to those who want to engage in discussion.

As I am not online moderating all the time I would like to think I can trust posters to IGNORE what they consider a personal attack and ENCOURAGE constructive discussion. Those who may want attention for attention’s stake, or to otherwise undermine discussion, should be ignored. They will try to ‘up their distraction’ in order to get a reaction. Again, IGNORE but reward constructive discussion. It’s that simple. In fact it’s so simple I am constantly amazed that I am even having to say it here.

You have the right to freedom of speech, however this does not extend to personal attacks and abusive language on my blog. Instead, you have the freedom to speak freely online by setting up your own blog if you feel I am being heavy-handed in my moderation on this blog. I completely encourage this and will even help you in that case.

Some may point out that this post itself serves as a reward to those who would abuse the privileges to comment on this site. May be. However I repeat that as humans – and adults at that – we are capable of reason, and that is why I post this – as well as advice to those who may otherwise react to comments that I miss or have not seen yet. Just ignore it and give me a heads up about it. Otherwise you just encourage the behaviour.

I’ll also be adding to the moderation policy that individuals choosing to abuse the ability to use false names on this site to give an illusion of multiple commenters will also be actively discouraged and the poster placed on probation, where their posts will be completely subject to moderation. This will also be the case for those who choose to engage in personal attacks, abusive langauge or otherwise impair constructive discussion on this site.

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2 thoughts on “Reflections on Animal Training & Blogging

  1. B.F. Skinner would be proud, Jon.

    But your lofty ideals won’t work. Simply because there are trolls, and two of the worst post here. I don’t believe either of them to be trainable, past examples have just shown them to escalate their prodding to elicit a reaction.

    The lies they post have to be denounced, otherwise they’ll stand, and people will believe them. Nobody WANTS to engage them, because they don’t seem capable of reason, but sometimes you just can’t let the untruths stand.

    We’ll try the ignore route again. Perhaps there might be some success this time, but I doubt it.

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