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Perl The Internet Technology

Disarm Internet Trolls, Gently 417

Posted by timothy
from the offer-them-cookies-but-watch-the-bowl dept.
Shlomi Fish writes "The best way to react to people trolling on Internet forums is not to feed them, right? Wrong! 'Don't feed the trolls' is also usually ineffective. Luckily, however, there is more effective approach, inspired by the book Feeling Good by David D. Burns."
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Disarm Internet Trolls, Gently

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  • Re:Depends (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 06, 2011 @06:12PM (#35400474)

    Treating them like an adult ("why do you say that Windows is a load of pigs' livers?")

    Sounds like the OP is suggesting we respond to trolls with Eliza [wikipedia.org].

  • Just Do It My Way (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pandrijeczko (588093) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @06:19PM (#35400542)

    ... develop a strong sense of self-worth & recognise that someone throwing profanities at you who has never met you is entirely unimportant.

    Get over that, then you can have fun baiting them, reeling them in, playing with them a while, then throwing them back when you're bored.

  • Trolls? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chrondeath (757612) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @06:21PM (#35400568)
    The author seems to be using "troll" as a term for "someone posting in an inflammatory manner," but I thought "troll" specifically referred to posters doing it to get a rise out of people. Responding in a reasonable manner isn't going to help if the other party isn't interested in taking the conversation seriously.
  • Re:Depends (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rolfwind (528248) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @06:27PM (#35400624)

    Actually, while trolls just want attention and so it seems correct to ignore them, they'll always bait someone who'll feed them - unless you're in a community where the moderators actively punish the responders just as much as the troll (I know a few) where the avg poster is conditioned to report and ignore.

    So, otherwise, it may be a good tactic to be a calm first responder. However, don't debate them or get angry. Trolls want a response, ignoring them might tick them off slightly, but engaging them w/o them getting a rise of you really pisses them off. It's their version of getting cockblocked.

  • Re:Pfft (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nocuous (1567933) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @07:21PM (#35401062)
    Exactly. The fact is many people enjoy feeding trolls, because it lets them feel superior to that schmuck who's standing there waving his dick in the community's face.

    Case in point; Charlie Sheen. The media machine LOVES this troll, because he's feeding THEM, so they want to keep him going as long as people pay attention. And people (real people) are paying attention.
    So go ahead, give people advice on disarming trolls. They won't follow it, because trolls are part of the online experience, and most people would miss them if they didn't exist (though lots of those would angrily deny it; see responses to my post).
  • Re:Know what I miss? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @09:23PM (#35401726) Journal

    *sigh*... I know, I know.

    There was once a time when trolling was once an art form [urban75.com].

    Sadly, those days have passed, and most of us grew up. :(

  • by Maow (620678) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @10:35PM (#35402074) Journal

    Kudos to Slashdot for their moderation system, that allows trolls to be modded out of sight for most users.

    Conversely, an unrepentant troll can post something insightful (by accident, no doubt) and it can be modded up to be seen by most users.

    Salon.com letters section suffers from severe trollery, hence the (shameless plug follows:) Salon KillFile (http://salon.maow.net), which blocks spammers by their web site names, regardless of this week's user names. It also bans trolls by name with a single button click, and highlights a user's favourite authors with a click of a button. Finally, it also automatically highlights Salon staff letters.

    Anyway, it's not as good as a moderation system, but Salon is too stupid/lazy/uncaring to bother upgrading their comment system, so users had to make their own GreaseMonkey script to do it for them.

    Again, kudos to Slashdot!

  • Re:Pfft (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rtb61 (674572) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @11:54PM (#35402386) Homepage

    Which points to the exact problem of attempting to deal with a troll on any realistic level. A long pointless off topic thread, that the majority of forum attendees have no interest in reading.

    So experience, provides the most logical answer in preserving forum integrity for the majority of users. Don't feed the trolls, completely pointless exercise, other than generating an off topic thread.

    When necessary make use of comment moderation and probationary status (passing probation provides something to lose).

    Your claim of troll supremacy also points to another issue, the best way to deal with one troll is not necessarily the best way to deal with ten or more trolls, creating nothing but a series of off topic threads.

    If anyone has been paying attention lately, the maketdroids when they can not control a topic will attempt to create an off topic thread to fill the first page of comments in an attempt to drive of readers and serious comments, especially the professionally paranoid low skill government asshats. This now requires offtopic thread moderation, where the whole thread disappears into -1 oblivion.

  • Re:Know what I miss? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@ g m a i l.com> on Monday March 07, 2011 @12:23AM (#35402530) Journal

    Ahhh...It is nice to see someone that still remembers and respects the old ways. Remember when the trolls and crazies were epic? When a good flamewar started by a smart troll could easily hit over 400 comments in a thread? How the troll would slowly build to a crescendo, slowly making tempers boil and blood simmer until the noobs blew up in a frenzy of "FUCK YOU!" screaming?

    And what about the crazies? everyone pays attention to the trolls but like a great straight man a good crazy could make ALL the difference! We don't even get great OS crazies anymore, just the same soundbite variations on "MS Suxorz!" "Lunix is for Luzerz!" and "MacFags suck Steve Jobs wrinkled wick!"

    There just isn't any subtlety to the trolling or crazy anymore, remember Twitter? Aie, now there was a fine crazy if ever there was one, all the Lithium in the world couldn't quench his fire! He was a master of the buildup, always starting with a subtle plug for FLOSS with just enough M$ and wrong information to lure in the prey. But did he go straight for the sockpuppet? No, he was too skilled for that, he would slowly build their anger with ever more lies and half truths, building in intensity until he had more than a dozen on his line then BAM! He would unleash his sockpuppets like the dogs of war and spin the whole thread into a tale involving him as a Harrison Ford everyman railing against a global conspiracy involving Bill Gates as the ultimate puppet master in a global star chamber! Now THAT was a true master of insanity!!

    Sadly just as our children and their children when never know the delightful screams of pain when a user accidentally hit a page with Comet Cursor and watched as his PC slowly melted from trying to swing a clock like a ball of snot from the end of his pointer, or will ever hear the painful yelps as someone's retina was damaged from hitting an "OMG Ponies!" neon pink with flashing green puke text on a Geocities page at 3AM with the lights off, so too will they never know the truly epic levels of trolling and craziness that once roamed this formerly wild prairie.

    They will forever think an "epic troll" is some Halo fratboy pasting crude nigger jokes, or some squeaky voiced 14 year old yelling "faggot!" while blasting gangster rap and pretending to be black. And just like the free roaming herd of buffalo that once ran free across this great nation I believe too few will remember and appreciate what has been lost. Truly a sad day on the net my friend, a truly sad day indeed.

  • by FoolishOwl (1698506) on Monday March 07, 2011 @02:52AM (#35403224) Journal

    There's logic to the use of the "troll" metaphor. A rant is not trolling. Angry disagreement is not trolling. Deliberate attempts to disrupt an online forum are trolling. A responsible forum moderator has the responsibility to identify trolls and deal with them firmly, decisively, and as quickly as possible.

    The most common form of trolling I have seen is a bigoted comment, often "justified" with insane troll logic [google.com]. Arguing with such logic is useless, and so is trying to dissuade the commenter from bigotry.

    Most importantly, the effect of such a troll is to silence or drive off members of an online community. Remember that in general, only a minority of participants in an online forum are active participants. If members of a group that has a history of victimization by bigotry see bigots going unchallenged or weakly challenged, they're likely to be discouraged from participation. Active participants will become passive, and passive participants will depart. This can kill an online community, and doing so is often a troll's intent. It is a moderator's responsibility to nurture an online community; therefore it is a moderator's responsibility to deal with trolls firmly.

    A troll is not interested in having a reasoned discussion, and when offered reasonable arguments, will continue or escalate the trolling. This amplifies the effect of the trolling, and leads to a forum thread being dominated by the argument around the troll: this is the reason why the conventional advice is to refrain from feeding the troll. That's not enough, however: trolls must be eliminated.

    There are two options for dealing with trolls: banning them, and humiliating them. Banning is the straightforward option, and usually the best choice, as it's the cleanest break. Humiliation is more chancy, but it has a few advantages: it makes it clear that a troll has been confronted, and in some cases, may more effectively demoralize a troll than simple banning. (One technique I've seen is "disemvowelling", in which all the vowels are deleted from a troll's comments. This makes it clear that action has been taken, and the troll's comments can be ignored, or can be puzzled out, if a regular participant wants to figure out what is going on.)

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday March 07, 2011 @03:07AM (#35403260) Journal

    Moderation works if the moderators do NOT use moderation to push their own agenda.

    Sadly as the article says, a LOT of people think provoking a debate is a bad thing. Oh dear, I might get some new info that doesn't sit well with my world view. HIDE IT!

    A troll is someone who provokes for no other reason then to provoke. That doesn't mean all who provoke are trolls. Sometimes they just see the world a different way. By the logic of a lot of Slashdot moderators, Gene Roddenberry was a troll for having a white male and black woman kiss on TV. That certainly caused people to call for censorship and others that TV was not the right medium for creating a debate at this point in history.

    The slashdot style moderation system, especially now since meta-moderation seems to be gone, is all to open to abuse where a bleeding heart tries to hide views he disagrees with.

    It would help if the moderator had to at least specify WHY he thinks the troll is trolling and if the moderation options included choices like "don't agree with this" and more importantly "this is factually wrong as can be proven by reading these articles".

    Now "troll" and "flamebait" are just translated as "do not like" and "do not want to hear this".

  • by Rubinstien (6077) on Monday March 07, 2011 @05:56AM (#35403770)

    I've encountered a few really annoying newsgroup trolls over the years, people that only showed up in order to stir up crap for no good reason. Those types invariably seem to think that they're anonymous because they use an assumed name and some Yahoo/AOL/Google address they acquired for that particular purpose. Although it cost me dearly in hours and eyestrain, I've hunted a couple of those people down, identified them, then posted all of the steps necessary to connect the dots back to the newsgroups they were making asses of themselves on, with information detailed enough to derive their home telephone numbers, names, place of employment, and even more sensitive personal information (in one case, if someone chose to read between the lines). In both cases, that was the end of it -- no more troll. I did this the first time after having had a discussion with a friend, who suggested that this was the best way he had found to deal with astroturfers. I believe he was right (thanks Alex). For casual trolls, I still think it is advisable to simply ignore them -- for people that are seriously asinine, a little vigilantism can be effective.

    Unlike some, I have no appreciation for "the Art of Trolling". Appreciating a skillful trolling is no more worthwhile than appreciating fine sewage-making. They add essentially the same benefit to society -- in fact, the sewage might be the greater contribution: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pecunia_non_olet [wikipedia.org]

Never test for an error condition you don't know how to handle. -- Steinbach

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