Cyberclinic: How can I avoid message board drivel?

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The Independent Tech

Avoiding outpourings of cretinous ignorance online is like trying to avoid goths at a My Chemical Romance gig.

Virtually every community-driven site suffers from the problem, from blogs, to Toyota message boards, to David Hasselhoff fansites; posts combining sage wisdom with cultured badinage will be suffixed with umpteen comments that not only fail to shed any light on the subject, they also fail to make any sense. A perfect example from a randomly selected YouTube video: "lmao CAN U EAT A SEAL??? lmfao!! why as a matter of a fact i can! :P lol jk cool vid m8 5 stars."

Thank you for your contribution, sir. Whoever controls the content of such pages could blast these irrelevancies into the ether with a click of a mouse – but, unsurprisingly, they have better things to do. But do we have to scour such drivel for something vaguely interesting? Some sites such as Digg and Slashdot have implemented a thumbs-up /thumbs-down voting system that should, in theory, preserve interesting comments and bury the dross – but the people voting on the comments are the ones leaving them. And if you are as intolerant and elitist as I am, you'll be after a system that's a little more brutal. Riding to the rescue is a Firefox extension called YouTube Comment Snob. This has the glorious ability to hide comments that match criteria such as a certain number of spelling mistakes, unrestrained use of capital letters, no capital letters, excessive punctuation or profanity. Of course, this doesn't guarantee that the rantings of swivel-eyed bozos won't slip through the net. But a 27-year-old linguistics graduate, Gabriel Ortiz, is going further by developing a piece of software – Stupidfilter – that will bring this touch of welcome snobbery to any site that accepts reader contributions. Until it launches properly, you can see it in action here: d95.com/idiot. In the meantime, we'll just have to depend on a well-oiled scrollwheel and colossal reserves of patience. Deep breaths, everyone.

Email any technology gripes to cyberclinic@independent.co.uk, or join the discussions on the blog at www.independent.co.uk/cyberclinic. Currently under discussion: "What are your experiences of being scammed on eBay?"

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