On Dealing with Trolls.

In my limited time belonging to this august body, I have seen several of these ugly beasts wandering around. The response to thier warbling tends to be to confront and engage with all guns blazing (or gently and patiently - depending on where in the Monty - Polycarp continuum you fall). This seems to encourage the troll to spew forth more of its bile, spurred to a frenzy by the attention it is recieving - which, of course is the troll’s purpose in posting in the first place…

It seems to me that a better option might be to completely ignore the creature completly - send it to Coventry, you might say. This will deprive it of the attention it seeks and cause it to Troll elsewhere. This was done to great effect in Muslim Guy’s (now famous) “Ask” thread, when seasga tried to butt in with long, rambling, non-specific rants (Fourth post on this page). No-one responded and he (she/it) went away after three posts. I realise that the “rules” (expectations of posters?) for IMHO and GD are quite different and that may colour one’s response to troll-ish behaviour, but reading Lib’s attempted dialogue with Lolo (Jesus: I’m not impressed) just made me wonder why we actually bother responding to people who are just up for a fight?


Having said that, the above thread did give rise to the best Pit Thread I have read in a long time… :slight_smile:


I cannot read minds, so I can’t often tell if someone is just looking to piss people off. When someone actually tells me they’re just trolling (in whatever words), then it’s off to Coventry as far as I’m concerned.


Coventry requires wide participation. The point at which I give up on a luser is not necessarily the same point anyone else chooses. I might keep on with someone long after everyone else gives up, inadvertently stymieing other people’s attempts at Coventry. The best I can do is put people on my mental /ignore list.

Too, it’s hard to let it go sometimes. When someone posts stuff that just drives you nuts, it can take a huge effort to walk away. It’s a constant battle for me. I remember only one poster who truly got to me–for weeks I couldn’t walk away. He kept holding the football and I kept running for it–and I wasn’t the only one. Eventually I managed to just let it go. (Coincidentally he finally self-destructed shortly afterward.)

And finally, we have hopes. There’s precedent for people who might have originally been trolls (or at least perceived as such) who have learned to stop and think, to gain a willingness for reasonable discussion. It’s possible that the next idiot might “reform.” Perhaps it’s quixotic, but I’ve always like windmills.



What a wondeful and original idea for Great Debates!

I’m not sure at what point I’m willing to concede that someone is a troll, even someone who is abrasive and rude. I think what clues me in is an eventual string of non sequiturs. The parody you linked to exaggerates the notion, but not by much.

And it’s sooooo hard not to respond to a troll, particularly when he’s left a remark that is challenging (or needs challenging). Sometimes, it’s even fun to pick on them! And if all but one or two people left them alone, I think that would be enough for them to continue to feed, so the whole thing breaks down unless it’s done by everyone, as in the Ask the Muslim thread.

I guess it’s we rely on mods to recognize trolls and cut 'em off.

Sometimes in Great Debates the ignorance that a troll puts forth is countered not for the benefit of the troll but for the benefit of other readers. We do not want a reader stumbling across a troll thread and taking away from it some absurd idea simply because it wasn’t challenged.

“If it weren’t for the people we hated, what would we talk about?” - S. Mayo


“Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.” (That’s the original quote – I’d substitute “or ignorance, or a narrow outlook.”

I will give every apparent troll the benefit of the doubt, though when he starts whaling away at some issue near and dear to me, my means of doing so may not be irenic but confrontational. (E.g., the guy I thought was a Young-Earth Creationist due to his questioning-of-evolution OP, I simply asked how the issue conduces to love of God and fellow man. Note: As it turned out, he was simply at sea as to how evolution is proven, not a YECtroll, and that was clarified and I apologized for the misassumption.)

Consider, if you will, Wildest Bill. Bill is in many ways antithetical to the “spirit of the SD,” reacting emotionally and self-centeredly and on the basis of his worldview, which is strenuously small-town religious conservative good ol’ boy. But he has the ability to listen to reason, his intent is good if his follow-through is sometimes lacking, and his horizons have widened – anyone who knew him in 1999 would have laughed at the idea that he and gobear would actually become friendly, yet that has evidently happened. Bill sometimes posts what seems apparent trollery as OPs, but is by no means a troll.

FriendofGod is quite willing to debate when he passes through. His worldview is nearly that of the strawman fundamentalist that Ben and Otto enjoy potshots at (which is not that of the throughtful religious conservatives forming most of the Pizza Parlor populace). Both he and Bill stand for what they post, however misinformed they may be, and hence are not trolling.

Many people with unpopular views and lack of debate skill tend to get tarred with the trollbrush. Some are indeed trolling; others are not, but analogs of WB and FoG.

Leave trollspotting to the moderators (or e-mail one of them with an apparent sighting).

(Special note to the Admins.: I may have broken my own rule above with regard to Eternal Student in a recent Pit post. I did this on open board rather than via e-mail, because my current e-mail account is on a friend’s ISP account which I can only access at need, while I can use public-access computers six days a week.)

From my experience:
How do you spot a troll?

  1. He disagrees with you.
  2. He is unabashedly blunt in his speech!

How do you deal with him?

  1. You participate in his war of words until he has to try so hard for a reaction that it gets him banned.

Please be so kind as to define: “Monty - Polycarp Continuum.”

Let’s face it, even God had trouble deciding on the best course of action to take with trolls and their ilk:

Thanks for the responses, all…

I agree with andros that Coventry would require wide and uniform application in order to work, and that it would be a pity if it were applied to quickly - my own start on these boards was fairly “trollish”, before I learned its etiquette (Monty may remember my comments on his column about the LDS temple). I am not sure that Eternal’s approach is the best for the promotion of “peace on earth and goodwill amongst men” - however effective it may be…

But I guess that Blackwell sums it up - if the purpose of the boards is to fight ignorance, then it (the ignorance) needs to be opposed, sometimes, the opposition of the ignorance morphs into opposition of the the troll, and then GD slips pitward.

Simply that while Monty quickly loses patience and labels posters as trolls and/or sock-puppets, Polycarp tends to be more long-suffering, and will take much more abuse before giving up on someone.

MEBuckner :wink: I enjoyed that…


Thanks, but it’s BlackCLAW. As in the clawed foot of a raven. I wouldn’t bring it up, but I was known as Blackbird for almost a year in a SCA heavy weapons group because I was too shy to correct anyone. :slight_smile:

Sh*t - sorry, mea maxima culpa

No problem :slight_smile:


My foot doesn’t talk… Could it just be upset? Sleeping? Do you think I should pay it more attention? Perhaps a long walk in the woods or something?

Of course, most people think I speak from a different body part, but that’s a story for another day…




I fear you have retreated into the process of generalization regarding me. By your own admission, your initial appearance here consisted of troll-like behaviour. And I have managed to discover a sock-puppet or two in reality.

You do manage, now, to not be a troll and for that I commend you. But please, let’s not generalize too much, okay?

Well, I think what grimpixie meant- or, at least what I would have meant had I said the same thing- was that the scale is of how gladly we suffer fools. On the one end, Poly has a resevior of patience and acceptance and tolerance that is nigh saintly. On the other, Monty, who when dealing with fools- well, let’s just say that I have no problem whatsoever believing that the man was a Chief Petty Officer with the Navy. Fools are dealt with quickly, harshly, and with enough armament to ensure that the job is done.
As for the question of trolls… it’s a good one, and one we constantly wrestle with. Feeding a troll always seems a bad thing, but does that mean starving one is a good thing? It may, after all, just push them into worse actions to gain the attention they seem to crave.

But maybe I’m just being Devil’s advocate.

I am sorry if I upset you with what was meant as a light-hearted quip - no real offense was meant by it… I’m sure Polycarp is not kind and patient all the time either…



Thanks for the vote of confidence; however, although my last Officer-in-Charge strongly encouraged me to request extension beyond 20 years in the Navy, I opted not to and retired as a Petty Officer First Class, one rank below Chief.


I don’t think I was upset, just curious rather. Thanks for the answer.

Celebrating one Lolo-free day.

I guarantee you that I lose my temper and often think and say some strong invective. And Monty is, I know from personal experience, very patient towards someone who is willing to admit their ignorance and look for the truth. He simply won’t truck with arrogant ignorance and flames it, while I (playing “good cop” to Monty’s “bad cop”) swallow my irritation and show Arrogant Ignorance where he is being both.

So the “continuum” is simply one of how quick one is to take umbrage. And neither of us are at the extremes.