blogging, trolls

How to deal with trolls

Troll

A troll is a fearsome member of a mythical anthropomorph race from Scandinavia. Their role ranges from fiendish giants – similar to the ogres of England (also called Trolls at times, see Troller’s Gill) – to a devious, more human-like folk of the wilderness, living underground in hills, caves or mounds. In Orkney and Shetland tales, trolls are called trows, adopted from the Norse language when these islands were settled by Vikings.

Wikipedia on trolls

Because I’m from Norway I grew up with stories about trolls. From the really bad ones to the more or less cosy ones. It’s a part of our culture. So for a Norwegian it’s interesting that this word is also used about the irritating people that comment on your blog, replies to forum threads and in general use the internet simply because they want to say bad things. The internet trolls:

In Internet terminology, a troll is someone who intentionally posts derogatory or otherwise inflammatory messages about sensitive topics in an established online community such as an online discussion forum to bait users into responding

There are a lot of different trolls out there. I don’t have many of them here at eirikso.com. I’ve met them during discussions at Digg.com and various forums. Usually I stop them with two very different approaches.

1. Some of them can be stopped or made more serious by confronting them. By simply joining the conversation. Those are the ones that post a comment on my blog simply saying that I am an idiot because I forgot a detail or whatever. Very often they can be turned into intelligent and contributing people by simply answering. If you join the conversation they tend to stop or they come back with a more serious comment. Often with an apology related to their first comment.

2. But you also have the trolls that simply want a fight. The best way to silence them is to not take the bait. Silence will stop them. Of course it is difficult to know wich ones that will come back with a more serious response and wich ones that will love the fact that you answered and come back with even worse comments.

Cory doctorow has an interesting article about internet trolls over at information week:

You can deal with trolls in many ways. Many trolls are perfectly nice in real life — sometimes, just calling them on the phone and confronting them with the human being at the other end of their attacks is enough to sober them up. But it doesn’t always work: I remember one time I challenged someone who’d been sending me hate mail to call me up and say the words aloud: the phone rang a moment later and the first words out of my troll’s mouth were, “You f*cking hypocrite!” The conversation declined from there.

(Via Thomas Hawk, image from Garder Troll)