All posts by Dav

Gamer | Metal Head | Nerd | Community Manager of

Miotal trom

Heavy Metal has saved my life on many occasions.

No, really!

It game me a tribe to belong to when I was in danger of packing it all in because I was miserable.

I have a collection of incredible friends for the last 15+ years and our shared love for metal brought us together.  Being “outcasts” in a very “normal” place like Castlebar kept us together.  We suffered from that snide condescension that far too many early 20-somethings do, which meant we knew that we were by far and away the superiors of all the people around us because we understood and loved something they didn’t and never would.  The open hostility shown to us by your standard issue Mayo red-neck citizen because we dared to have long hair or dress differently only re-enforced this of course.

But for me it’s a big help with mood management.  If I’m angry (and I used to be an extremely angry young man), I listen to angry music and feel the anger along with it.  When the song ends, I almost always feel better.  When an entire album ends, I definitely feel much better.  Slayer were a particular favourite of mine (the first ever proper metal gig I went to was Slayer in the SFX on their Diablos In Musica tour in July 2000), Pantera and Sepultura also helped – early Thrash basically.  As time went on, I started to include Death Metal bands like Deicide, Dying Fetus and Decapitated (no, I don’t know why they all start with a D either).  Lately I’ve been including stuff like Ministry, Meshuggah and Mastodon (looks like I’m trapped in an alliteration loop).

Mostly I listen to Doom Metal – take all the negativity and terrible things in the world and make it into musical form and that’s Doom.  Think Black Sabbath, except much, much slower and much, much heavier.  Nothing hits the spot like some Electric Wizard or Yob or Slomatics when your mood is at rock bottom.  Living your mood vicariously though the music has gotten me out of so many dark and dreary holes that I can’t even begin to count how often I’ve needed it.

Then there are the days when you’re mood is good and you just want to listen to excellent music.  Those are the days that we give aside to Gojira, Coffinworm, Deftones, Mael Mórdha or Cthulhu knows what else.  My profile is here, it’ll tell you everything you need to know.

So if someone you know that’s older than 16 is listening to angry, shouty music, or indeed deathly slow and fear inducing  dirges, maybe it’s because they’ve got some serious problems and it helps, but mostly it means they have impeccable taste :p

A “typical” claim of defamation in my daily work

I’ll start this with a caveat of “every time something like this comes into the site, it’s taken very seriously and investigated fully” so I don’t want anyone to think that we treat these things as frivolous or an unnecessary use of our time.  I however am making light of the sorts of things we get for comedic value, because this is my fraking blog and I’ll write what I want :p).  But, I can assure you, I have had all of these interactions many times, obviously in a much more professional manner.

So here’s a breakdown of the general in’s and outs of what happens when someone submits a legal complaint on the grounds of defamation to

“I Googled my business – JoeBloggsAcme Ltd – and found some terribly damaging comments made about my business that have cost me 6 months of sleep and were absolutely definitely made by my competitors – I’m certain of this despite the fact that I can’t see their IP address or their sign-up details and I’m completely ignoring the fact that it says they’ve been a member of your site for 6 years and have several thousand posts to their name.”

We reply with a “Please give us the link to the content in question and we’ll be more than happy to investigate it.”

“Just Google JoeBloggsAcme and you’ll find it.”

“No, we won’t, you need to point out to us specifically where this is, Google personalises search results based on your search history.”

“I don’t understand all these technical questions, you’re the internet, you do it.”

“You can just copy the address from the bar in your web browser and paste it into this email and send it to us.”

“I don’t know what you’re on about, I don’t know how you expect people to answer all this technical jargon.”

“Is there a young person in your office who knows how to computer?”

“I’ll get my nephew, he made our website three years ago.”

A day or two later, we’ll get an email with a link to a page somewhere on Boards.  For reference and for an immediate investigation, you can link to a specific post by right clicking and copying the address of the link on the post number that appears on the top right corner of every individual post.

“We’ve reviewed the thread in question, we can’t see anything defamatory on that page nor any mention of your business.”

“It’s right there, look at it!”

“This is the link you sent us, can you please tell us what post number it is?  We can’t see it.”

“Oh, that’s not the right one at all, look, just Google it, you’re wasting my time now, I’m going to be talking to my solicitor tomorrow if you don’t sort this out.”

“We have made several requests for you to send us the link to the post you have a problem with, however, if you can’t provide it, maybe your solicitor can, please have them email us or write to us directly, we’ll be happy to deal with them.”

At this stage we’ll either get a solicitor’s letter within a week or they’ll realise that they can save themselves €100+ by simply doing what we’ve asked and letting us investigate the thing for them.

So, we investigate.  If a comment is made about JoeBloggsAcme Ltd that is defamatory, then we immediately take it down.  This could be something like “JoeBloggsAcme Ltd sells fake goods” or “JoeBloggsAcme Ltd doesn’t pay it’s staff minimum wage” or any number of things.

But what if it’s true?

In a lot of ways, and it pains me to say this, I don’t care; I can’t afford to. cannot afford to go to court on the off chance something someone said on the site said might be true or false.  That’s the reality of how the law works.  It’s a gag order that can be wielded with impunity and more or less without any fear of reprisal.  Many times I asked people if they’re prepared to go to court and defend their statement and almost every time they’ve freaked and said not a chance and that’s that.  If the people who make these statements aren’t prepared to stand by them, then we certainly can’t.

So the statements get deleted, an email gets sent to the person who made the complaint thanking them for bringing it to our attention (because we genuinely and sincerely have no interest in the site being a platform for defamation) and a note to say that they’re welcome to get in touch with us any time again in the future should they need to.

I can only think of a few exceptions to this when I’ve asked the person involved  if they can show that their statements are true and they have been able to show me where they successfully took the company involved to court and had a judgement awarded in their favour.  They were even able to link me directly to where the case’s results.  In those cases an email gets sent saying “Sorry, but this is true, here’s the proof, we’re not taking it down but we’ll gladly post a statement on your behalf” (actually, any company reading that wants to do this, we’re only too happy to help – this is good for you, it’s good for us and most importantly, it’s good for our members).

There are some variations on the themes above – of particular note are the times when people (and most often a solicitor) will demand the identities of the people who made these posts.  This is not possible for many reasons but mostly:

  1. We have no idea, all you’re required to give to sign up is an email address, a password and of course, a username.

I will talk about the Data Protection act at another time.  It’s a really good law and it’s being handled by an exceptional team in the office of the Data Commissioner.

So there you are, a little insight into the process.  It’s far from complete and there are many more things that can and will happen on any given case.  As I said at the start of this post, we really do take them all extremely seriously, but please allow me to have a little bit of fun when talking about it.

On defamation…

Here’s a link to the 2009 Defamation act:

This is getting a lot of airtime at the moment thanks to a non-trivial mess caused by RTÉ and based on comments made by Panti Bliss on one of their programmes.  Lots of reporting has been made on the topic, I don’t need to repeat it.  You can see a lot of the news about it over here on (in the interests of disclosure, is a part of the same group that owns Boards, so they are my colleagues).

However, there is a massive difference between how the law works and what people think is “fair.”

Before we go any further with this piece, I want to clarify that I am not a legal professional, I have had no formal training in law and I don’t suggest that anything written here be taken as definitive.  I am however someone who acts to take down defamatory content from where I work on a weekly basis.  I have a better “day-to-day” understanding of defamation law than most people.

The Defamation act defines a defamatory statement as

a statement that tends to injure a person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society, and “defamatory” shall be construed accordingly;

It goes further to say:

statement” includes—

(a) a statement made orally or in writing,

(b) visual images, sounds, gestures and any other method of signifying meaning,

(c) a statement—

(i) broadcast on the radio or television, or

(ii) published on the internet, and

(d) an electronic communication;

So, what this means in very basic and straightforward terms, if you say or write something that can be seen as damaging to the reputation of a legal entity (be that an individual person or an organisation), then you have defamed them.  Did your parents ever say “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?”  That’s what this act puts into law.

It is also defamatory to endorse a defamatory statement without making it yourself.  So holding up a big arrow pointing to a statement made by someone else is in and of itself defamatory.  So if you re-tweet or link to a defamatory statement, you too have defamed the subject of the statement.

Now, there are of three defences to this and I’ll explain them as best I can.

The Defence of Absolute Privilege [link]

Basically, some institutions are exempt from defamation because they need to be able to speak without restriction.  These include the Dáil, the Seanád, the European Parliament and the courts.  So if you’re in court as a witness for example, you can make a statement about a defendant that would otherwise be defamatory without fear of that coming back on you as defamation.

This defence also extends to “fair and accurate reporting” about such statements or records so talking about a statement made under Absolute Privilege is safe.

The reasons for this should be pretty straight forward – if a government can’t discuss something openly then they’re in trouble.  Similarly, if a court trial can’t hear all evidence or witness statements, then it can’t work properly.

The Defence of Qualified Privilege [link]

I’m less clear on this one, but as I understand it this means that if someone has to write up a report that they then have to give to another and the content is defamatory, then they have this defence.  The best example I can think of is an investigating Garda handing a report to another member of their team that might implicate someone as having committed a crime which is being investigated (and therefore hasn’t gone to court yet).  Obviously the Gardaí need to be able to have a proper discussion about a case without having to worry that by simply making a note of their suspects, they can be sued for defaming them.

I think that’s fair enough, our peace keepers need to be able to do their job.

The Defence of Truth [link]

Short and sweet this one – if you can prove a statement is true then it is a defence.  This is the most common means of shutting down a claim of defamation.

It’s extremely important to note that these three options for defence of a statement do not magically turn the statement into “not defamatory.”  It’s still defamation, it’s just that you can’t be charged with having breached the act if you have either absolute or qualified privilege or if it’s the truth.

OK, so lets say you feel like you’ve been defamed and you wish to take action, who do you go after.  Well, obviously the person who made the statement is the one you should be held accountable, right? I don’t think anyone can argue that.  However, if it’s something written by someone and printed in a newspaper or magazine, then the publisher can (and will) also be targeted because they have facilitated this defamatory statement.  What if it’s a statement made by a guest on a TV or radio programme?  Well the broadcaster is now a target too – hence RTÉ’s payout to those defamed in the Panti issue.

What if someone wrote it on a website?  In law, the website is the publisher, so if it’s a personal blog like this, then I’m also the publisher.  If it’s Facebook, Twitter or Boards, they’re the publisher.

So these websites are legitimate targets despite the fact that they had no knowledge of the content in question.  We do thankfully have one single “get out of jail” clause thanks to the EU E-Commerce Directive which was signed into law in Ireland as S.I. No. 68/2003.  These sites are considered Intermediaries and therefore have the defence of being a “mere conduit” for any statements made on our platforms.  This is thanks to a case taken against Betfair in 2009 and the particulars of that can be reviewed on TJ McIntyre’s blog here.  Suffice it to say, a “mere conduit” means that we’re simply the method by which the statement is delivered and are totally oblivious as to what it is.  Similarly, a phone company doesn’t actively monitor the thousands of conversations that are ongoing at any given time (they leave that to the NSA ). Once the site in question is made aware of something, then they’re no longer a mere conduit, so has a responsibility to remove that content should it be necessary.

The most important thing to remember about this law is that it completely ignores the idea of “innocent until proven guilty.”  The defendant must prove that they are entitled to absolute or qualified privilege, or that the statement is the truth.  There is no investigation into any of this made before someone is served with a summons or injunction.  Given the prohibitive cost of the legal system, no one but the wealthiest, or bravest (or perhaps stupidest) can afford to be dragged into the High Court to defend what may have been an off the cuff remark or an experience they had with a company that went very badly.  The average person is gonna freak out with served with this sort of threat which only goes to show that the legal system we have is fundamentally flawed and operates on a basis of “pay to win.”  But that’s a story for another day…

I will put together another post about some of the real world encounters I have had with this law, but for now, I just wanted to write up my understanding of it and the how and why it works the way it does as the frankly vast gulf of knowledge being displayed by the public on this over the Panti related issue is going to get some people in trouble if the people being mentioned are of a mind to carry on with their legal actions (and like it or not, they’re just as entitled to the protection of the law as the rest of us).

Computer Games 2013

I play a lot of computer games.  A LOT.  There’s a service called Raptr that tracks your games playing activity and I just noticed that it has a summary of some of my activity for 2013 so here’s a link to it:

My top game (in terms of hours spent) is Civ 5 which if anyone’s played any of Sid Meier’s Civ games, they’ll know how easy it is to get stuck into hours and hours of game play.  I’ve also spent a lot of my time with this game playing it with friends where we’d decide to take on the computer at a high difficulty level and either just about pull out some long and hard fought military victories, or we’d play too passively and get eclipsed by the AI’s science and lose that way.  We’d easily spend 16-20 hours a week on these games.

As it happens, the current Humble Bundle is offering the complete versions of Civ 3, 4 and 5 as well as Ace Skies and Railroads.

I went on a real turn based kick last year between Civ and X-Com.  Because I only installed Raptr late into the year (August or September I think), it doesn’t show everything I played and I know I’ve spent more time on some of the games listed than it says.  I’m back playing X-Com again since the release of the Enemy Within DLC which has added some really nice features to the game.

I played quite a bit of Battlefield 3 early last year and I’ve got some time on Battlefield 4 too since its release late last year.  I’ll talk a bit more about that in another post – Electronic Arts really fucked their customers over last year with some disgracefully broken game releases – they simply did not work at all and are still in a state of disrepair.  They weren’t the only company that did this, it seems 2013 will be remembered as a year of rushed and very unfinished releases.

A little bit more about my job

So I decided to leave a page in the menu saying what it is I work at and what I might talk about.

In an effort to expand a little more on this, I guess a post on the basics of what I do would help.

There are 2 sides to Boards – the site and the company.  I’m the bridge between these two sides and I try to make sure that when one side acts on something, the other side is happy with it. is run by a 600+ strong team of volunteer Moderators, Category Moderators and Admins.  The biggest par of my job is to see to it that they have the tools they need to do that job.

I help to set policy for the site along with the Admins, I deal with legal complaints that come from the outside world, I work with our advertisers and Talk To forum clients to make sure they’re getting the most out of their investment in our site.

When things get very messy, I’m called in to fix it.  This might be one particular community going to war with itself, it might be harassment, suicide watch, legal threats or any one of a number of different things.

It’s a widely diverse and interesting job and my life is better for having it.  It’s now almost 5 years since I started and it still throws something new at me on a weekly basis.

So I’m going to try keeping a blog again

I’ve started and stopped doing this many times over the years.

I’m not good at remembering that I have a blog where I can put things and lately I’ve found myself wanting to talk a bit more about the world than Twitter’s 140 characters allows me.  So since it’s so easy to run WordPress and it’s always fun to see what changes they make to it in between bouts of enthusiasm to write these things, here’s another blog attempt.