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A Discussion on Trolls

June 19, 2006 13:15

I'm going to do this once, and only once. I shouldn't do it at all, but this issue affects and has affected far too many people, over far too long a timespan, that I'm going to put it all out for everyone to see, so there will be no confusion, no misunderstandings, and nobody going "huh huh huh???" long after this issue should have been settled. I'm going to talk about a troll. I'm going to give this troll undeserved attention, which is exactly what he wants. But I'm only going to do this once, and only as an educational exersize. Now pay attention.

For the last few months, on rare occasions, this site has been visited by a troll. It's not the first time, and likely won't be the last. But this one is more clever than most, and therefore has created more trouble than most. Talking to him recently, he claimed to be a regular in the past, although refused to provide me with a regular name he used. I did some research and discovered he used to go by the name an, when he showed a rare thread of consistancy. Normally he uses a different name on every post.

His gift, should you call it that, is sniffing around to find people's hot buttons, then pushing them repeatedly. Most of the time, these actions appear benign from a casual observation. You would never guess he did anything wrong without a larger contextual view, and lets face it, who really has the time to explore the ancient history of everyone they speak with. He will intentionally push someone's button, the victim will respond in an aggressive, defensive, and sometimes seemingly inappropriate manner, and the troll will then continue to push the same buttons, annoyingly so, until at some point he backs away, usually after getting kicked, banned or otherwise, because he "never did anything wrong." And an uninformed outsider who had no idea what all took place would likely agree. And so the troll's legacy lives on.

The troll, any troll, gets his kicks from a response, especially a negative one. More importantly, the goal is to create discord amongst the regular members as they get drawn into a controversial topic. Take Shiz for instance. Everyone who knows him realizes that he has a temper at times, and more times than I would prefer he will let a rude anon taste a bit of it before getting rid of the problem. A lot of us tend to feel the same way, so while we might not react the same way, we fully understand his motivations and generally don't have a problem with it. The troll will find a way to get the same reaction, only do so in such a way that nobody else can relate. This makes Shiz look bad to everyone else. And before you know it, other people join in on the bandwagon of saying "Yes, shiz DOES have a habit of kicking people out and cussing at them for no reason." Many times, it's the same person over and over again, but it looks like a larger segment of the population that has suffered the wrath of Shiz. Now that the troll has gained a support group, that group will continue to fight in his honor, even after the troll has left.

So who's fault is it? Ultimately, ours. Mine, yours, Shiz's, and everyone else who bothered to give this troll one bit of attention or one bit of credibility. It's not a problem with a simple solution, however. Ultimately, we all need to learn to simply not jump the gun with our reactions. Be it a troll, or someone making a clueless, but innocent comment, we can take offense to something seemingly benign. It would be better to respond to these things in a polite, civilized way, even if the reply is negative. Keep all illusions of hostility out of the response. Those who simply made a mistake will either apologize or refrain from broaching the same subject in the future, and a troll, not getting the desired response, will either escalate the effort or depart for greener pastures. An escalated effort to aggravate someone is easier to identify and deal with.

For the moment, I have created trolltags. Currently there is ONE troll listed in the database. Any caption or comment left by the troll will be marked, encouraging others to simply ignore whatever he's saying, in hopes he will go away. Any effort to bypass this tagging will be considered an abusive action and permanant removal from the site will then be an optimal solution. I normally would ban trolling outright, but since there is some discrepancy between the appearance of simple honest discord and outright trolling, I feel marking those who are consistantly exhibiting antisocial behavior gives them the opportunity to improve their ways, assuming they wish to. The trolls will not, will make it obvious, and at that point I see no reason to continue dealing with them.

So remember, the next time you feel compelled to be drawn into a controversial debate, be it a negative stance against a member of this site, a political conversation, a debate about religion, philosophy, the rearing of children, or the fundamental diatribes of the glowworm mutilation cult... before you get sucked into a flamewar, mind the source of your outrage. Have your own ideas, don't blindly follow the crowd. Develop your own thoughts based on your personal observations of the available facts. Yes. I know I'm not being realistic. People generally don't work that way. Mob rule, peer pressure, and herding are the way the world works. You'll have to decide if you want to lead, follow, or get out of the way. But the next time you're offered the opportunity to take a blind stab in the dark at someone, at least consider who's handing you the blade.

I have nothing more to say on this subject.