"Troll," in the context of message boards and the like, describes somebody who is posting just to be confrontational or to raise hackles. One example might be a teenager who finds a Jewish message board and posts, "The Holocaust never happened." The teen may not know or care one way or the other--he just wants a reaction. He wants to piss people off. He is a troll.
There are more subtle trolling techniques as well. One Internet dictionary (http://www.whatis.com
) gives a real example in which somebody posted about "the discovery of an ancient African carving containing a list of prime numbers." The poster listed some of the prime numbers supposedly on the carving, some of which weren't actually primes. People who saw the message, thinking he was serious, responded with corrections. The troll then announced that those who spent their time responding to him had been "hooked."
That suggests how the term got its start. Trolling, to those who don't spend all their time in front of the computer, is a method of fishing where you trail bait through the water from a slow-moving boat hoping to hook an unwary fish. An online troll does much the same.
The other meaning of troll--a brutish monster who lives under a bridge--likely didn't have much to do with the origin of the term. But at an early stage it was conflated with the other sense of trolling for obvious reasons: if you've dealt much with trolls, you know you're dealing with some pretty ugly minds.
To be fair, not all trolls are slimeballs. On some message boards, veteran posters with a mischievous bent occasionally go "newbie trolling." On the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban, as of a few years ago anyway, it was fairly common for pranksters to post known urban legends as fact in hopes of getting novice users to go, "No, REALLY?" Gotcha, sucker.
The main point about trolls is that they intentionally mislead others. As the Free Online Dictionary of Computing (http://foldoc.doc.ic.ac.uk/foldoc/foldoc.c
gi?troll) notes, "Trolling aims to elicit an emotional reaction from those with a hair-trigger on the reply key. A really subtle troll makes some people lose their minds."
"Troll" is often flung about too casually. If somebody is simply ignorant or obtuse, it's incorrect to call him a troll. Admittedly, it's not always easy to distinguish between someone pretending to be wrong and someone who is wrong and doesn't know it or won't admit it.
How does one deal with trolls? That depends on your personality, the overall disposition of the message board, and the type of message board you're using.
There are two kinds of message boards: moderated and unmoderated. On unmoderated MBs such as most Usenet newsgroups, no one is in charge and there is no way to prevent a troll from posting short of persuading his Internet service provider to cancel his account. Moderated boards like the Straight Dope Message Board offer more control--truly egregious trolls can be banned and their posts deleted. But most board moderators, including those at the SDMB, reserve that sanction for extreme cases. A post I consider trolling someone else may find thought-provoking. Too quick a finger on the "delete" button and you open yourself to charges of censorship.
Besides, this is the Internet, the closest we've come to a free marketplace of ideas. The prevailing ethic here is that it's best to let everyone have his say, and rely on the good sense of other participants to sort out sound ideas from stupid ones. Which means it all comes down to you.
Many people feel trolls should simply be ignored, and some message boards have evolved their own private codes to warn off other users. (On the SDMB, one such code is DNFTT, "do not feed the trolls"). But others dislike the idea of giving trolls free rein.
On the SDMB, Cecil's goal of fighting ignorance is generally the guiding principle. If somebody posts misinformation, other users feel obliged to point it out. I'm sure some trolls delight in getting others to respond in this way, but the choice is either that or let a troll's posts stand unchallenged. Ignoring obvious nonsense has some advantages, but what about naive users who may read the falsehood and, seeing nothing to rebut it, believe it? To prevent that, some advocate responding to trolls once and only once. You refute the misinformation and that's that. Of course, this is often easier said than done, and many people (myself included) simply cannot sit idly by while the troll gleefully continues to post BS.
The other option is to pounce on every last falsehood and fabrication. This can lead to a classic flame war. We've had threads on the SDMB with close to a thousand posts as users attempt to get in the last word with an obstinate troll. These battles can be exhilarating but also exhausting. Inevitably at some point you ask yourself: what's the point?
In short, you've got two possibilities--ignore the troll or argue with him. My recommendation is as follows: If the person is a well-known troll with low credibility, post once to point out the flaws and then ignore him. If there's a real chance he may fool people who don't know better, knock him down with facts.
SDSTAFF David and
The most basic form of trolling is to submit a post that will attract the most possible amount of responses, negative or argumentative replies usually preferred, and then to sit back and bask in the chaos that has been created. This troll is simply out for immediate scoreboard and a quick win is enough to satisfy him. The tactic is basic, relatively uncreative, and only touches the surface of what a troll can really do; yet its effective in accomplishing its singular task--to attract attention and garner as many responses as possible. The content delivered by this type of troll generally falls into several areas; It may consist of an obviously foolish opposition of common knowledge, many intentional offensive insults or flames directed to the readers of a community, or a blanket generation on a specific category which is sure to attract a large number of argumentative replies.
While these trolls may be completely satisfied with just getting a desired reaction to his bait, and therefore consider it a "victory", a more well rounded and creative troll-job will encompass much more time and effort. Victory or winning for a troll depends on his particular goal. Depending on the desired goal a troll may not be content with an easy victory and choose to expand his exploits to the next level. Exactly what pursuit the next level turns out to be, is entirely up to the imagination and ability of the troll. The options are almost limitless.
Another type of troll worth mention is the "post whore". A post whore is a post-humping nuisance whose only purpose is simply to annoy by sheer volume of submitted post. They are intentionally aiming at being a pest. The post whore is generally looked down upon by most trolls and is often referred to as a spammer. They posses very limited verbal ability and are easily taken apart by flamers and civilians alike. Post whores do not possess the talent, personality, patience, or intelligence to troll using any form of advanced tactics. The true spammer on the other hand takes this one step further. Spamming is usually the exploits of the lowest caliber of troll. However, community based retaliation or mass attacks on civilian territories in an organized trolling venture are the exception to this rule. They lack creativity, but can create extreme chaos in quick order.
The experienced troll spends time carefully choosing the right subjects and delivering his bait to the appropriate communities. The most effective trolls will often posses very advanced flaming and/or debate ability in-order to aid and further his trolling potential. Just be sure to keep in mind that although there are many similarities and most flamers do troll, flamers are generally not trolls. Yet many advanced trolls are expert flamers. These master trolls employ the most advanced tactics and strategy and the art involved with trolling is taken seriously(Sometimes too seriously). Yet regardless of whether the troll is novice or advanced, the overall strategy can take several weeks or months to develop. It all depends on the trolls ability and what level he wants to take the troll to. This troll effort can also involve a number of people acting together as a unified group.
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Last updated 23 May 2003 (Dead links removed) - Bookmark this page and check for updates!
Part One: Introduction
Part Two: What is a Troll?
Part Three: Are there different sorts of Trolls?
Part Four: Why don't people like Trolls? Surely they're just having fun!
Part Five: How do people respond to Trolls?
Part Six: What is a good way to deal with a Troll?
Part Seven: What about other types of Trolls?
Part Eight: Will This Advice Get Rid of All Trolls?
Part Nine: Who is NOT a Troll?
Part Ten: About this site
Part Eleven: Anti-Troll Links
Part Twelve: Example of Troll Threads (Links to a new page)
'Anyone can speak Troll,' said Fred dismissively, 'all you have to do is point and grunt.'
"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" - J.K. Rowling (2000)
This page is a step by step guide to handling a Troll on Usenet, or any other discussion forum on the Internet. Or, more precisely, it is a step by step guide to beating a Troll at their own game.
There are too many Trolls that infest Newsgroups and discussion forums - this site gives you some ideas about how to stop their antics permanently.
Before we begin, though, understand this: the best way to deal with a Troll is to ignore them entirely. They are not worth your time, however you may feel about their comments.
However, this site recognises that sometimes you may be unwittingly drawn into a 'conversation' with them. This site will help you to deal with that situation.
"How To Handle A Troll" is updated on a semi-regular basis. You might like to visit this page again to learn new tactics against the Trolls. Similarly, you might like to let your friends know about the site. After you have finished reading, please link to this guide from your website.
Don't let anyone get destroyed by the Trolls!
What is a Troll?
The best way to know what a Troll is, is to see what they do. The following link is a humourous look at how to Troll, even encouraging people to take up the habit. Note how the author himself distinguishes between the Trolls who are just trying to gain attention, or are trying to create havoc.
Yet the author has made a fatal flaw: He fails to see that ALL Trolls crave attention. That is the sole reason they exist - whether or not they want to feel that they have achieved something (even if it is destruction) or to be recognised for doing something deviant, they want just a little attention in their direction.
Remember: Without attention, Trolls are nothing. They have no audience, and no victim. To read the website, click here. NOTE: The previous website has been removed. I will try to find a replacement site that demonstrates Troll mentality, but until then, you'll have to make do with my explanations, sorry!
I would encourage you to read the whole page. We'll come back to it later, but it is well worth it anyway.
The mentality of a Troll is obvious - he wants a cheap laugh, and that is all. The offense that may be caused is of no concern to him, as are any other ramifications of his actions.
This Usenet post describes what many people consider to be trolls. There are hundreds of such definitions across the 'net, on various different websites (including this one, and many that are linked on this site). Ultimately, these many definitions of trolls, all vary slightly, but they all sum up to this:-
Trolls are a nuisance. They purposefully cause annoyance to other users, but their approach can, and does, vary. Some trolls are obvious, some are not. This website attempts to show you some of the different approaches that trolls take - to keep you, as an Internet user, prepared.
Are there different sorts of Trolls?
Yes. There are several types of Trolls, and each is discussed on in more depth later in this site. They are: The Bored's, The Liars, The Confrontationalists and The Controversials
Many Trolls just want to be a nuisance. They're kids who aren't mature enough to have a sensible conversation. These Trolls fall under The Bored's category, but that does not necessarily mean that all Trolls are children. Many "mature" adults find enjoyment in Trolling groups.
But there are other trolls who set out to cause havoc. This may include posing as a regular poster in the group (then acting in a way to deflame that person's good name). Or it may be to draw members of the group into an argument.
You can read about that sort of behaviour here. Here, a Troll has managed to draw people into an off-topic discussion that has resulted in an innocent poster losing his ISP access. This is all part of the entertainment for the Troll.
NOTE: The previous website has been removed. I will try to find a replacement site that demonstrates Troll mentality, but until then, you'll have to make do with my explanations, sorry!
Why don't people like Trolls? Surely they're just having fun!
Trolls are a nuisance, as they frequently set out to antagonise other people who post in the same forum. For example, take the following post by "Drew" in the Usenet foum alt.tv.star-trek.enterprise
LOW RATINGS NOBODY WATCHES IT LIKE STNG STNG HAVE THE MOST RATINGS.
By the way, you can Click Here to see the message on Google
The above message is a prime example of a Bored Troll post. It is almost unreadable, atrocious grammar, and blatantly insults the show that the newsgroup focuses upon. The Troll is probably a bored teenager.
STNG is supposed to read ST:TNG (or, Star Trek:The Next Generation). The bad spelling is a part of the Troll - attempting to provoke insults from the regulars about his spelling.
Responses such as "You're an idiot. You can't even spell." is what the Troll is hoping for. This way, he can draw you into a prolonged argument about who is the bigger idiot. Sensible ways to respond (if you have to at all) are discussed below. Trolls who throw insults across the 'net are Confrontationalists and relish seeing any response that indicates the respondee is wound up, or aggravated by their Trolling.
It is fair to assume that people who regularly post to an Enterprise newsgroup will be fans of the show. By saying that the show is not up to par, "Drew" is hoping for other posters to get angry with him, degrading themselves to the mentality of schoolchildren in the process.
Trolls are the Usenet equivalent of the School bully. They don't have to be that big, hard, or clever to throw their weight around - but they do enjoy watching the over reactions of the other posters.
Their messages are poorly laid out - usually on purpose, with bad grammar, spelling, and, more often than not, written entirely in caps.
Some Trolls can be entertaining, but that may not be their intention, nor may that be the intention of any troll.
The Troll Sukami Master infests the newsgroup alt.fan.harry-potter (among others), and after one post titled "Trollness", OnsenMark followed up with... (click here for google)
serj_tankian, you aren't. Hell, even the freakin' *Boinger* is more entertaining than you, and s/he misspells every single word!
But Sukami Master isn't trying to entertain the group. He (it is usually a he) is trying to entertain himself. Perhaps this highlights just how shallow Trolls really are. So, in response to the question (finally), yes, trolls are just having fun, but at the expense of every one else in the group.
Trolls will happily do the exact opposite of what you want them to do. Sukami Master might be accused of being a "boring" troll, but he gains a reaction every time, because he does not act how people expect a troll to act.
How do people respond to Trolls?
Usually the most obvious way - they get offended.
"Drew"'s post was not as offensive as many you may have come across. Others pick on individuals - either by name calling, personal insults, or by posing as that person to degrade their character.
Naturally, people don't like this! Who would?
And so, the general result is a range of insults flung across the Internet which does nothing but antagonise the regulars on the board, and entertain the Troll.
What is a good way to deal with a Troll?
It depends upon the Troll - If you realise that a Troll is just trying to wind you up, or offend you, Be Calm. Don't rise to them.
Let's take the example of "Drew" again. How would you react? These are three responses to "Drew"...
do you trolls really thing your lies are even SEMI BELIEVEABLE????
enterprise has a guaranteed 6 years. ratings might not be great, but what's UPN going to replace it with? the Hughleys?
This is possibly not the worst way to respond - but it does show the Troll that you have been wound up by their post. There is a certain amount of gratification for him in that!
Quoting your side of the argument to him will not help. Even quoting facts will not help. Across the great Internet divide, facts may as well be nonsense figures.
By "SHOUTING" you are expressing your anger, which to him is humourous. He is safe in his room, and so such agression means nothing to him.
ST:TNG was a first run syndication show. Ratings work different for syndicated shows, than network shows. High ratings for a syndicated show could be considered low for a network show. Believe me when I say that there will be a season 2 of Enterprise, and I imagine a season 7.
Again, quoting facts will do nothing, except possibly force an argument that he will relish in, and, whether or not you win intellectually, he will draw out until you couldn't stand it any longer through mis-quotes (of your posts), lies, and perjorative comments.
Facts and arguments are a waste of time.
You may have a valid point about the low ratings, in comparison to some shows that have had a few more seasons to be developed. ST-TNG definately was a very popular show a few seasons into its run!
However, could you not use capslock all the time, as it can be rather difficult to read, and to some, it can seem like you are shouting.
Start with a compliment! As shown above, accept that they may well have a valid argument, and therefore have a necessary place within the forum.
Keep Calm! Don't let your anger show through.
Compliment them before any criticism - and keep that criticism to a minimum. They don't how to react. Before long, they may find themselves drawn into sensible conversations with the group.
If possible, make any criticism sound like a criticism of yourself, not them. Here, the responder has made the caps problem seem like the readers fault, rather than the posters.
What about other types of Trolls?
Some Trolls will pose as regular members of a forum - either by pretending to be someone else, or by joining in some conversations, letting their subversiveness slip through very slowly.
For example, this Troll started by joining in some conversations on the alt.movies.spielberg group. "Togetherinparis" slowly began to lie, about progressively implausible situations, until eventually most regular posters left the group. Now, several years on, the Troll appears to be the only person left in the group - still proclaiming that he came up with the ideas for Minority Report, The Force (as in Star Wars) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
How is the best way to deal with this? It may be difficult to recognise his lies to begin with, and then it is easy to fall into the trap of outright believing him.
As soon as you recognise a Liar, don't try to get him to prove his facts - it's impossible across Usenet, and he knows this.
You may like to try some of the above tactics - try to draw him into a sensible conversation, without dropping to his level.
But, ultimately, there can be only one way to deal with him: Killfile him. Do not let yourself be seduced into having an argument over the validity of his "facts".
Other Trolls will try to draw you into a futile argument by a variety of means, but usually by saying something controversial.
A Trolls message may be as simple as "Prove that God does not exist" that has been crossposted to a range of religious newsgroups. A Troll is usually idnetifable, as he will often refuse to take a stance on either side - at one time arguing that God exists, and another that He doesn't.
These Trolls are Controversials.
A Trolls message will often be crossposted to one or more newsgroups that have nothing to do with the subject. By clicking here you can read a Troll thread that spanned for more than four hundred messages - just because it was a controversial subject, and in spite of the fact that the subject had nothing to do with one of the forums in which it was posted.
Trolls revel in their threads lasting such a long time - the longer a thread is, the more legitimate users have been sucked into their little game.
All Trolls, Controversials, Liars, Boreds and Confrontationalists use "Logical Fallacies" - in other words, they lie, change their minds, or otherwise simply claim any perspective other than the concensus.
Logical Fallacies can be a legitimate form of discussion in many instances. But Trolls can use this to their advantage, suggesting that fallacies arise in their "opponents" arguments, where, in truth, those fallacies may, or may not exist.
For example, in the following theoretical trollish encounter, the USER follows some of the above steps when approaching the troll...
In Newsgroup alt.movies.spielberg ... TROLL: SPIELBERG'S FILMS SUC!
USER: Do you think so? I have always felt that the critique of a film-maker lies with their audience. Personally, I quite enjoy Spielbergs films, however it is good to see an opinion other than a positive one addressed.
At this point, it is unlikely that the Troll would respond - he has made his statement, and enough people may have argued against him that he is wrong, causing havoc in the group, that his work has already been done for him. We will presume, however, that the troll wishes to create a prolonged thread about Mr. Spielbergs work.
TROLL: You know that Spielbergs films suck! If one meber of the audience dislikes the film, then it sucks for them. Therefore, Spielbergs films SUCK!
Arguing with the troll will get you nowhere. The counter-argument misses half the point, and they will claim the same of you. What's the best way of dealing with this sort of Troll?
Ignore it. Killfile the thread.
Others will join in, undoubtedly - but the more people ignore it, the better. Even by acknowledging to the Troll that you know what it is ("You are a Troll! Go away!") will boost his ego.
Like the best way of winning a fight, the best way of beating a Troll is to not get involved. That way, you can't get hurt.
So, in brief...
BE CALM - Don't rise to their antagonising attitude.
DON'T LOWER YOURSELF TO THEIR LEVEL - Don't start throwing insults at them. It's what they want.
PAY A COMPLIMENT - It is the last thing they are expecting - and the opposite of what they want.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO JOIN IN - Let them know they have valid points, and make their faults seem like yours.
But, above all else, USE YOUR KILLFILE - It is there for a reason, and it is your most powerful weapon.
Examples of Troll Posts
[ Main Page ]
Due to popular demand (okay, I admit it, I wanted to do this) this section of the site gives a small selection of my "favourite" trolls. Obviously, the term favourite isn't in any sense positive - these are trolls who are the most interesting from the spectators viewpoint, but have also caused a great deal of havoc.
Read them and enjoy. Some of them are funny (some are very funny), and some are really quite pathetic. Most are both.
You'll no doubt notice the ratings... these aren't for the trolls themselves. This is not a trolling leaderboard. The higher the rating, the more pathetic the troll. The ratings are for how the community deals with the troll, and how interesting their response is.
Note also that these are Troll threads - not specific trolls. One or more trolls may be involved in the thread itself. Ask yourself: Who are they? Do they crop up more than once?
Bear in mind the advice on the main page - how would you handle the following situations?
This sort of thing normally quite happily resides on the paranoid newsgroups, but here it is, on a Music forum, a Guns forum, and a local forum. A trollish post, no doubt, but for the conspirationalists amongst us, very much a fascinating idea that's worth seriously considering for... oooh... 3 seconds.
The troll is Old - he should have gotten bored years ago, but he keeps on coming back. A sad, sad, individual.
C-C-C-Carry On, Potter
See also: One, Two, and Three
This troll doesn't just reside in the Harry Potter NG, but since this is the group that I learnt about it, the NG is the focus of this example. An inherently sad thing, and most definately a bored troll (see: here), with far too much time on its hands. Although it is a career Troll, it isn't a particularly sucessful one, and tends to get laughed at more often than it actually causes trouble. It isn't handled particularly well on the Harry Potter NG, however (until eventually added to plonk files) and stirs up a little trouble. Obviously not a particularly clever troll, as its attempts to be controversial fall rather flat. Bad Monkey!
But this troll is particularly prattish, mostly because he swears in a group that is largely populated by children.
If I had to pick a Troll to be marooned on an island with, this one would be it. I could laugh at it for years. The Troll has made the somewhat tenuous link between homosexuality and the Playstation... and God's Wrath upon both. Most of the humour doesn't stem from the Troll, but rather the users of the group, who literally line up to take potshots at it. It's frankly hilarious to see the troll subverted, and beaten around the head with its own arguments. A truly pathetic Troll, but a truly fantastic read.
Spielberg: The Plagiarist
A fascinating insight into the early work of a particular troll. This one is noted on the main page. "Togetherinparis", "Ross Nicholson", "Bubba Nicholson" are all the same troll - and all argue that not only do they know Spielberg, but that he stole many of his ideas from "Bubba" to make his films. Badly handled by the community, Bubba is allowed to flourish, and ultimately the newsgroup died an untimely death.
LOL, no G Lola, no I am not calling you a troll.
I am merely pointing out the difference between responsible and sincere discussion and the kind of threads designed to disrupt responsible and sincere discussion.