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Thread: What is Trolling

  1. #1
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    What is Trolling

    The purpose of this thread is to establish some terminology and familiarity with internet "trolls."

    If you are lucky, you may not have encountered trolls before, so hopefully this will help you out. Maybe someone has called you a troll and you wonder why? Hopefully this will help you understand why or why not your actions could be construed as "trolling." Maybe a thread makes you uncomfortable and you can't put your finger on it, hopefully this thread will help.

    Feel free to add, expand, discuss, share experiences, etc. - this is just a basis for discussion, not a rule. While this includes a definition, this is not about defining "trolling" but to explore what behavior can be seen as "trolling" and what to do about it.

    Wikipedia has a great entry on Internet Trolling, here are some key points relevant to our board:

    Definition:
    In Internet terminology, a troll is someone who comes into an established community such as an online discussion forum, and posts inflammatory, rude or offensive messages designed to annoy and antagonize the existing members or disrupt the flow of discussion.

    On Labelling/Being Labelled a Troll:
    The term troll is highly subjective. Some readers may characterize a post as trolling, while others may regard the same post as a legitimate contribution to the discussion, even if controversial. The term is often used to discredit an opposing position, or its proponent, by argument ad hominem. When appropriately applied to purposefully disruptive online behavior, the word troll economically converts an abstract code of online manners into a concrete image.

    Often, calling someone a troll makes assumptions about a writer's motives that may be incorrect. Regardless of the writer's motives, controversial posts are likely to attract a corrective or patronizing or outraged response by those who do not distinguish between real physical community (where people are actually exposed to some shared risk of bodily harm by their actions), and epistemic community (based on a mere exchange of words and ideas). Customs of discourse, or etiquette, originating in physical communities are often applied naively to online discourse by newcomers who are not used to the range of views expressed online, often anonymously. Hence, both users and posts are commonly, and sometimes inaccurately, labelled as trolls when their content upsets people — ironically, the accusatory labeling of a troll may be more disruptive than the original alleged offense itself. Also, people may be more inclined to use epithets like troll in online public discussion than they would be in person, because online forums may seem more impersonal.


    "Feeding the Troll":
    "...Experienced participants in online forums know that the most effective way to discourage a troll is usually to ignore him or her, because responding encourages a true troll to continue disruptive posts to that forum — hence the often-seen warning "Please do not feed the troll", for which PDNFTT is a common initialism. Posting this warning publicly, in reply to a troll's behavior to discourage further replies, may discourage the troll. However, it can also have the reverse effect, becoming itself food for the troll. Therefore, when a forum participant sees an apparently innocent answer to a troll as potential troll food, it may be more prudent to deliver the "Please do not feed the troll" warning in a private message to the answerer.

    Examples:

    One-shot trolls
    One-shot troll messages are intended to be disruptive, and tend to be very obvious to ensure that they will receive annoyed replies.

    Disruptive trolls
    • Off topic messages: Those that are irrelevant to the focus of the forum. This can also be done in the middle of an existing thread to attempt to hijack the thread, or otherwise change the topic at hand. Off topic messages usually occur when a member has been completely disproved in a serious debate thus, causing that member to use his or her other multiple pseudonyms for the purposes of changing the subject matter. These disruptions may result in the degeneration of a well informed thread into a heated juvenile exchange consisting of insults and childish accusations between multiple parties.

      Inflammatory messages, including racist, sexist, classist or otherwise needlessly hateful comments.

      Opinionated statements: Posting messages expressing their own opinions as generally accepted facts without offering any proof or analysis.

      Spoiling: Deliberately revealing the ending or an important part of movie, book, game etc.

      Bumping an old discussion, or rehashing a highly controversial past topic, particularly in smaller online communities.

      Deliberate and repeated misspelling of other people's nicks in order to disturb or irritate them in a conversation.


    Attention-seeking trolls:
    This class of trolls seeks to incite as many responses as possible and to absorb a disproportionate share of the collective attention span.

    • Advertising another forum, especially a rival or a hated forum.

      Claiming to be someone they cannot possibly be: "As an actual, real-life samurai, I have some problems with (the film) The Seven Samurai."

      No longer having affiliation to or current knowledge of the subject at hand, yet continually posting opinions and commentary as "experts".

      Messages containing a deliberate flaw or error: "I think 2001: A Space Odyssey is Roman Polanski's best film."

      Asking for help with an implausible task or problem: "How do I season my Crock Pot? I don't want everything I cook in it to taste the same."

      Intentionally naive questions: "Can I cook pasta in Evian instead of water?"

      Intentional typos: "Does anyone have a copy of Super Maria Bras. for the Nintendo?"

      Messages containing a self-referential appeal to status. "Pepsi is for white trash. I prefer a real soft drink like Coke."

      Intentionally posting an outrageous argument, deliberately constructed around a fundamental but obfuscated flaw or error. Often the poster will become defensive when the argument is refuted, and may continue the thread through the use of further flawed arguments; this is referred to as "feeding" the troll.

      Politically contentious messages: "Everyone knows that all Republicans/Democrats are evil."

      Posting politically sensitive images in inappropriate places.

      Feigning innocence, after a flamewar ensues.

      Off-topic complaints about personal life, even threats of suicide: sometimes, this is the "cry for help" troll. In other instances, this type of trolling may be for amusement. If the motive is amusement, the troll may post ridiculous comments seemingly out of the blue. "I want to marry a hyena."

      Plural or paranoid answers to personal opinions expressed by individuals: "I don't think that all of you really believe that -— you're just ganging up on me!"



    A WONDERFUL article that is very relevant to GetCrafty is Searching for Safety Online: Managing "Trolling" in a Feminist Forum

    Abstract:
    A common phenomenon in online discussion groups is the individual who baits and provokes other group members, often with the result of drawing them into fruitless argument and diverting attention from the stated purposes of the group. This study documents a case in which the members of a vulnerable online community—a feminist web-based discussion forum—are targeted by a “troller” attempting to disrupt their discussion space. We analyze the strategies that make the troller successful and the targeted group largely ineffectual in responding to his attack, as a means to understand how such behavior might be minimized and managed in general. The analysis further suggests that feminist and other non-mainstream online forums are especially vulnerable, in that they must balance inclusive ideals against the need for protection and safety, a tension that can be exploited by disruptive elements to generate intragroup conflict.

    Conclusions:
    We conclude by suggesting several pro-active interventions that might help to forestall a vulnerable group from being harassed, yet not squelch debate. The first is to educate users about trolling. Trollers particularly prey on inexperienced Internet users, including populations that are often vulnerable for other reasons. Forum administrators might warn users about the patterns that trollers follow. Simply naming the danger would heighten people's awareness of it. Because the danger is emotional and not physical, we can imagine that warning about trolling might be similar to warning about phone pranks or sales scams, where awareness of the modus operandi is often sufficient to forestall the effect of the advantage-taking event.

    Perhaps while we are educating users, we might also inform them of the lack of anonymity of Internet communication, no matter how safe and secure a discussion site may appear. Users need to be aware of the practice of archiving Internet transcripts, of how easily messages can be disseminated to other Internet venues, and of the fact that at least one systems administrator always has access privileges to the contents of their servers, even when messages have been deleted. Greater awareness might lead users to reflect before responding hastily
    to provocative messages, since such messages could potentially come back to haunt them later.

    This case also points to the need for online forums to articulate policies, guidelines for appropriate participation, and penalties for violating those guidelines, in advance of harassment episodes taking place. Public online spaces are likely to experience disruption from trolling and flaming unless policies and capabilities are implemented for excluding problem users. It is necessary in this regard to distinguish clearly between cooperative debate (however heated) and uncooperative provocation (however masked). Unambiguous and strong moderation from the start can avoid many problems. Some evidence suggests that groups vulnerable to harassment and trolling benefit especially from stricter centralized moderation.....
    colemanlv1 likes this.

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    Re: What is Trolling

    Quote Originally Posted by brdgt
    On Labelling/Being Labelled a Troll:
    [i]The term troll is highly subjective. Some readers may characterize a post as trolling, while others may regard the same post as a legitimate contribution to the discussion, even if controversial. The term is often used to discredit an opposing position, or its proponent, by argument ad hominem.

    Often, calling someone a troll makes assumptions about a writer's motives that may be incorrect. ... Customs of discourse, or etiquette, originating in physical communities are often applied naively to online discourse by newcomers who are not used to the range of views expressed online, often anonymously. Hence, both users and posts are commonly, and sometimes inaccurately, labelled as trolls when their content upsets people — ironically, the accusatory labeling of a troll may be more disruptive than the original alleged offense itself. Also, people may be more inclined to use epithets like troll in online public discussion than they would be in person, because online forums may seem more impersonal.
    Thanks, brdgt, for posting this. The above pretty much sums up my experience when discussing anything even slightly controversial here. I realize that I am often the "dissenter" so to speak, but that shouldn't mean that I can't express my opinion with as much boldness and passion as those who disagree with me.

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    So, how do we:

    ... distinguish clearly between cooperative debate (however heated) and uncooperative provocation (however masked).

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    i think distinguishing between masked provocation and heated debate is the hard part, especially because it's pretty common for people who really are just trolling to say that they are looking for an honest debate.

    one of the things i've noticed about trolls is that the "debate" never moves forward. they push the same question over and over, and claim that the answers aren't sufficient or that since they don't agree with the answer, it doesn't count.

    and honestly, Getcrafty is pretty much free of balls-out trolling. i think sometimes people get too fired up about an argument and it gets personal, but i don't think that's the same as intentionally posting something just to piss people off.

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by stella
    one of the things i've noticed about trolls is that the "debate" never moves forward. they push the same question over and over, and claim that the answers aren't sufficient or that since they don't agree with the answer, it doesn't count.

    and honestly, Getcrafty is pretty much free of balls-out trolling. i think sometimes people get too fired up about an argument and it gets personal, but i don't think that's the same as intentionally posting something just to piss people off.
    Great points Stella. I just want to reiterate and combine them (to move the conversation forward ;):

    If the debate isn't progressing due to one poster's behavior that person may or may not be a troll, but posters bothered by this should consider letting the thread die out, as it is not being productive.

    Or - if other posters enjoy debate and/or don't see any participants as being trolls, remind yourself to post in a way that moves the conversation forward.

    Does that sound like good advice?

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    But what if you enjoy debate, and would like to continue the thread, BUT some people are acting "trollish"?

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    sounds good!

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    Quote Originally Posted by delqc
    But what if you enjoy debate, and would like to continue the thread, BUT some people are acting "trollish"?
    One thing that's worked for me in the past has been to respond only to things that people I can talk to are saying. So maybe I'm in a thread with delqc and TrollyMcTrollerston. I make a conscious effort not to talk to TrollyMcTrollerston, even if she responds to things I say -- I talk only to delqc.

    It doesn't always work, but it has at times.

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by xuli
    Quote Originally Posted by delqc
    But what if you enjoy debate, and would like to continue the thread, BUT some people are acting "trollish"?
    One thing that's worked for me in the past has been to respond only to things that people I can talk to are saying. So maybe I'm in a thread with delqc and TrollyMcTrollerston. I make a conscious effort not to talk to TrollyMcTrollerston, even if she responds to things I say -- I talk only to delqc.

    It doesn't always work, but it has at times.
    That's a great point to Xuli. I think sometimes people want to "rehabilitate" trolls and it's best to remember that this doesn't work.

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    Thankyou for this, it was very interesting. ( especially for those of us with little pc knowledge!)


 
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