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Thread: The definitive guide to Trolls

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    The definitive guide to Trolls

    In response to this thread I decided it was time to sit down and compile a clear definition of a troll followed by some examples, links and ways to deal with them. Please feel free to add your thoughts. I am not the original author of much of this material, in fact most of it is blatently borrowed from the sites linked at the bottom. I am merely the one who compiled the information for this thread.

    ----Definition----

    An "Internet troll" or "Forum Troll" is a person who posts outrageous message to bait people to answer. Trolls delight in sowing discord on the forums. A troll is someone who inspires flaming rhetoric, someone who is purposely provoking and pulling people into flaming discussion. Flaming discussions usually end with name calling and a flame war.

    A classic troll tries to make us believe that he is a skeptic. He is divisive and argumentative with need-to-be-right attitude, "searching for the truth", flaming discussion, and sometimes insulting people or provoking people to insult him. A troll is usually an expert in reusing the same words of its opponents and in turning it against them.

    While he tries to present himself as a skeptic looking for truth ... his messages usually sound as if it is the responsibility of other forum members to provide evidence that what forum is all about is legitimate.

    ]He (and in at least 90% of cases it is he) tries to start arguments and upset people.

    Sometimes, he is skeptical, trying to scare people, trying to plant fear in their hearts. Sometimes, Internet troll is trying to spin conflicting information, is questioning in an insincere manner, flaming discussion, insulting people, turning people against each other, harassing forum members, ignoring warnings from forum moderators.

    Trolling is a form of harassment that can take over a discussion. Well meaning defenders can create chaos by responding to trolls. The best response is to ignore it, or to report a message to a forum moderator. Ubuntuforums moderators usually move troll messages to the jail and may even ban trolls after a few unheeded warnings. Negative emotions stirred up by trolls leak over into other discussions. Normally affable people can become bitter after reading an angry interchange between a troll and his victims, and this can poison previously friendly interactions between long-time users.

    Finally, trolls create a paranoid environment, such that a casual criticism by a new arrival can elicit a ferocious and inappropriate backlash.

    When trolls are completely ignored they sometimes step up their attacks, desperately seeking the attention they crave. Their messages become more and more foul, and they post ever more of them. Alternatively, they may protest that their right to free speech is being curtailed. Perhaps the most difficult challenge for a moderator is deciding whether to take steps against a troll that a few people find entertaining. Some trolls do have a creative spark and have chosen to squander it on being disruptive. There is a certain perverse pleasure in watching some of them. Ultimately, though, we have to decide if the troll actually cares about putting on a good show for the regular participants, or is simply playing to an audience of one -- himself. For this reason the staff here often intervene, either with a warning in a thread, jailing one or more posts, sending private messages to offenders, and even banning people--temporarily or permanently--from these forums.

    As an idea, the next time you see a post by somebody whom you think is a troll, and you feel you must reply, maybe you could just write a follow-up message in the thread entitled "Troll Alert" and type something like this:
    The only way to deal with trolls is to limit your reaction and not to respond to trolling messages. It is well known that most people don't read messages that nobody responds to, while 99% of forum visitors first read the longest and the largest threads with the most answers.
    The goal of the Ubuntuforums is to provide a place where people wanting to share experiences using Ubuntu or Linux in general can do so as well as give and receive technical assistance in a friendly, pleasant environment. Trolls disturb and disrupt community and are neither welcomed nor tolerated. There are lots of "free speech" forums available for political, religious, "not safe for work" and family-unfriendly sorts of interactions. If you feel the need to troll, please seek out one of these places.

    ----Troll Spotting----

    Trolls often have many basic characteristics in common:

    1. Low post count. Trolls usually do not last long enough on a forum to rack up a large number of posts. Be particularly suspicious of any poster whose count is not yet in double digits and who appears to be causing trouble.

    2. Suspicious IP addresses. Puppet accounts will have IP addresses identical to that of the TiQ.

    3. Suspicious E-mail Addresses. Accounts that are similar in nature to those of the TiQ can indicate a puppet account. AOL accounts, for example, are particularly suspect, because AOL allows multiple usernames for a single account.

    4. Syntax and grammar. Trolls, particularly Deceptives, invariably have trouble hiding their writing styles. Puppet accounts, or serial accounts created after previous accounts have been thoroughly discredited, will display traits similar to that of the TiQ.

    ----Links/sources----

    These links are the source of much (almost all) of what is contained here. They also go into much greater detail than I have.
    http://themartialist.com/pecom/fieldguidetotrolls.htm
    http://curezone.com/forums/troll.asp
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll

    ----Other Link----

    This link is not a source, but a complementary site. If you enjoy this thread, you are certain to enjoy it.
    http://www.flamewarriors.com/index.htm
    Last edited by matthew; October 7th, 2010 at 03:05 PM. Reason: added themartialist.com link
    what's a troll? | my blog | my writing | Ubuntu Unleashed

    Don't ask support questions in PMs--post a thread so everyone can benefit!

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    Re: The definitive guide to Trolls

    Part 2...

    ----Humorous descriptions of various troll types----

    THE MAJOR BREEDS

    The Vulgar Troll. These, the crudest of all trolls, make no attempt to hide their species. Often, they make racist comments, or they may post porn and other spam. Vulgars usually confine their comments merely to primitive, profane, off-topic observations. When you log into the Really Profound Serious Philosophical Discussions board and see the post, "I smell my farts," you've spotted the Vulgar Troll. Other species of troll sometimes revert to this form when cornered.

    The Deceptive or "Classic" Troll. More sophisticated but often easily identified and exposed, the Classic Troll gratifies his ego by pretending to be someone or something he or she is not. Classics make up elaborate stories about themselves, sometimes weaving some amounts of truth into their lies. As a web of lies is difficult to build with consistency, however, Classics are often "outed" by other forumites. When this happens, Classic Trolls have a bag of tricks to which they turn:

    – Classic Troll Tactic Number 1: If the heat gets too much for you, claim it was all "a joke." In this way you can excuse any and all deceit by claiming people just weren't smart enough to "get" the humor of it.

    – Classic Troll Tactic Number 2: Create another account, and log on pretending to be someone else, in order to show support for the Troll in Question (TiQ). These puppet accounts sometimes claim to be disinterested third parties. At other times they pretend to be "friends" of the TiQ.

    – Classic Troll Tactic Number 3: When your lies paint you into a corner, claim that your little brother, or some unnamed friend, has commandeered your account and made you look foolish. This technique can also be applied in claiming that the puppet account(s) you created may not, in fact, be disinterested third parties or friends, but that they are your relatives ("little brother" is most common) only trying to help support you.

    – Classic Troll Tactic Number 4: When nothing else works, claim that now, finally, you're telling the truth about all the lies you told before. Make up a fresh set of lies, and throw yourself on the mercy of the forumites.

    – Classic Troll Tactic Number 5: When all else fails, claim to be leaving forever. Trolls who claim they are leaving never do, of course; you can bet that anyone who proclaims, "I'm never coming back here," will most certainly at least check back for responses, and probably will not be able to resist posting again.

    – Classic Troll Tactic Number 6: Have a tantrum. When all their other tricks are exhausted, Classic Trolls will become angry and start shouting. Often they revert to Vulgar Trolls when this happens.

    – Classic Troll Tactic Number 7: The insincere apology. Similar to Tactic 4, this involves pretending to repent for one's trolling and is accompanied often by great melodrama. Insincere troll apologists hope that they'll be forgiven if only they act disgusted enough with their own behavior.

    The Contrarian Troll. A sophisticated breed, Contrarian Trolls frequent boards whose predominant opinions are contrary to their own. A forum dominated by those who support firearms and knife rights, for example, will invariably be visited by Contrarian Trolls espousing their beliefs in the benefits of gun control. It is important to distinguish between dissenters and actual Contrarian Trolls, however; the Contrarian is not categorized as a troll because of his or her dissenting opinions, but due to the manner in which he or she behaves:

    – Contrarian Warning Sign Number One: The most important indicator of a poster's Contrarian Troll status is his constant use of subtle and not-so-subtle insults, a technique intended to make people angry. Contrarians will resist the urge to be insulting at first, but as their post count increases, they become more and more abusive of those with whom they disagree. Most often they initiate the insults in the course of what has been a civil, if heated, debate to that point.

    – Contrarian Warning Sign Number Two: Constant references to the forum membership as monolithic. "You guys are all just [descriptor]." "You're a lynch mob." "You all just want to ridicule anyone who disagrees with you."

    – Contrarian Warning Sign Number Three: Intellectual dishonesty. This is only a mild indicator that is not limited to trolls, but Contrarians display it to a high degree. They will lie about things they've said, pull posts out of context in a manner that changes their meanings significantly, and generally ignore any points for which they have no ready answers.

    – Contrarian Warning Sign Number Four: Accusing the accusers. When confronted with their trolling, trolls immediately respond that it is the accusers who are trolls (see Natural Predators below). Often the Contrarian will single out his most vocal opponent and claim that while he can respect his other opponents, this one in particular is beneath his notice.

    – Contrarian Warning Sign Number Five: Attempts to condescend. The Contrarian will seek refuge in condescending remarks that repeatedly scorn his or her critics as beneath notice – all the while continuing to respond to them.

    – Contrarian Warning Sign Number Six: One distinctive mark of Contrarian Trolls is that every thread in which they dissent quickly devolves into a debate about who is trolling whom. In the course of such a debate the Contrarian will display many of the other Warning Signs mentioned above.

    The YerATroll. YerATrolls are those whining forumites who devote a tremendous amount of time and energy complaining about the tremendous amount of time an energy expended by Troll Bashers and Angry Forumites on the practice of troll-hunting. A self-righteous and hypocritical breed, YerATrolls spend all their time pointing fingers at everyone but trolls, petulantly demanding that their opinions be granted the significance the YerATroll believes they deserve. YerATrolls often start threads excoriating others for troll-hunting, all the while completely oblivious to the fact that they're engaging in trolling by picking fights with everyone else. One of the most ill-tempered of troll species, YerATrolls are characterized by a childish need for attention disguised as cynical nobility and pretensions of being "above it all."

    The Agenda Troll.
    Agenda trolls are those participants who join a forum specifically to pursue an agenda of their own – often a feud or grudge with another member, or perhaps a dispute with some party not participating in that forum. When a flame war erupts on another board, for example, Agenda Trolls will follow their opponents to other forums in order to continue the spat.

    – Some Agenda Trolls are subject-matter oriented. An Agenda Troll who thinks Self-Defense Instructor X is a fraud, or who feels he has been ripped off or otherwise dealt with unfairly by Instructor X, will visit forums devoted to self-defense and martial arts in order to spread his or her negative opinion of Instructor X.

    – Agenda Trolls may also be of the milder Spam Agenda subspecies; these are Trolls who join a board specifically to advertise some venture of their own. They are not often troublesome, though their shameless plugging is met with varying degrees of irritation.

    The Sophist Troll. Sophist Trolls, or "philotrolls," fancy themselves Enlightened Philosophers or Learned Experts of the highest order. Often well educated, Philotrolls are capable of speaking intelligently on a number of topics, and when the spirit moves them they can be worthwhile forum participants. Unfortunately, Sophist Trolls are an extremely hostile and intolerant species.

    When confronted by opinions with which they do not agree – particularly when they do not see any means of successfully arguing their contrary views – Sophists resort (repeatedly) to a variety of intellectually dishonest tactics. Most often, this is characterized by an overly snide, condescending, patronizing attitude. Philotrolls consider anyone with whom they do not agree to be "immature," and are fond of quoting that old saw that "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

    When cornered they are quick to resort to personal attacks. A philotroll's bag of rhetorical tricks includes a variety of transparent ploys, such as willfully misinterpreting the opponent's words, committing Straw Man fallacies, accusing his or her opponents of engaging in the very tactics used by the philotroll, and so forth.

    When engaging in their sophistry, philotrolls are among the most hypocritical and aggravating of trollkind.

    The Affected Profundity Troll. A mutant subspecies of Sophist Trolls, Affected Profundity Trolls post endless pages of pretentious drivel that is intended to appear wise, but which generally makes little sense (if any). Affected Profundity Trolls enjoy asking themselves questions, sometimes answering them and sometimes leaving them hanging, for they believe this looks intelligent and lends an aura of mystery to their incoherent ramblings. Affected Profundity Trolls aspire to become Sophist Trolls, but lack the intelligence necessary to make the leap.

    The Don King Troll. Related to Affected Profundity Trolls, Don King Trolls spout gibberish in the hope that they'll either bore or confuse to death those with whom they disagree. The average Don King Troll is "a pursuitist who gromulates his adversarial computerists with height defining formulations to the disinterestingest adjunct."

    The Artistic Troll. A higher species of Classic Troll, Artistic Trolls are intelligent individuals who understand the subtle art of trolling, and who do what they do specifically to make others look foolish. Often employing the techniques of Deceptive Trolls, Artistics will string forumites along until some point in time designated by their own desires, at which point they will reveal the ploy, admit that it was a ploy, and laugh at everyone for being stupid enough to fall for it. Artistic Trolls delight in sowing discord, but do it in a highly developed and fully aware manner. They do not care if they are despised, and do not seek the approval of forum participants. Chaos is their only goal, and preferably chaos with a humorous bent to it. Without a doubt, this is the most dangerous species.

    The Bitter Troll. Bitter Trolls are a curious cross-species. They can be trolls of any breed in their larval stages, but become Bitters after their previous activities are seen for what they were. What sets these trolls apart from other classifications is their behavior after they have been spotted and labeled as trolls. Angry, frustrated, and resentful about being "outed," the Bitter Troll will wage a campaign of indignant complaints intended to focus attention away from the troll and on whomever is responsible for identifying the creature. Often, a troll mutates into a Bitter just prior to becoming a Vulgar.

    The Bustr. Bustrs are obsessive Bitters by whom you could practically set your watch. A Bustr never forgets, never forgives, and holds a grudge until the day it dies. Also a variant of Agenda trolls, Bustrs typically move from forum to forum complaining about the objects of their ire, often cutting and pasting age-old diatribes that have little meaning to most of their audiences. Most Bustrs are relatively incoherent, though a few of the more lucid ones are potentially dangerous stalkers.

    The Mutt. Alternatively known as Dogs or Yapping Dogs. Mutts are pack animals characterized by their loud barking – vociferous, repetitive, usually ignorant and irrational criticism of anything and anyone they do not like. Mutts frequently become obsessed with a few or even a single poster with whom they disagree, often for purely personal reasons. Like a dog gnawing at a bone, the Mutt will attack the object of its ire over and over again, making a fool of itself in the eyes of those who understand such childish behavior for what it is. Often one Mutt in a group of Yapping Dogs will act as the alpha of the pack, while the others chime in to voice their mindless (but loud) support for their leader's opinions.

    The Holy Misroller (HM).
    Holy Misrollers are those online forum participants who give Christians (or other religious adherents) a bad name. The HM believes himself or herself to be a Christian (etc.) and will generally tell anyone who'll listen about his or her faith in God and in Jesus. At the same time, however, the HM will display decidedly un-Christian behavior, frequently making an *** out of him- or herself. The HM is often characterized by a great deal of anger and hostility. The breed tends to lash out at anyone and anything not in keeping with its incorrectly narrow worldview. The saddest part about HMs is that they do not truly understand Christianity at all.

    The Marketing Genius. A Marketing Genius is absolutely convinced that you are profiting from your participation in an Internet forum. If you have a link or a graphic block in you signature, the Marketing Genius just knows that this is your subtle attempt to assert your hypnotic powers on other bulletin board participants, luring them with the siren song of your complex and inscrutable advertising of your site. It does not matter to the Marketing Genius that forum members have been placing links and pictures in their signatures since the ability to do so was first created. Having never created anything of value themselves, Marketing Geniuses have only their bitter envy and their firm belief that you are a Dot Com Billionaire to motivate and occupy them.

    The Honorable Nitwit. Honorable Nitwits absolutely love to speak about honor. This breed invokes the concepts of honor, integrity, humility, and other traits straight from the Boy Scout Oath more often than a Klingon warrior on anti-depressants. Honorable nitwits are convinced that everyone around them suffers from a lack of honor – an idea they thoroughly fail to understand in attempting to use its lack to smear others.

    The Old Warrior. The Old Warrior has been there and done that. He has little time to spare for those who have not been there and done that. The Old Warrior has been there and done that to such an extent, in fact, that he is always right. Anyone who disagrees with him, therefore, is wrong by definition and should shut the hell up. Old Warriors place a very high premium on one's credentials relevant to the subject matter discussed – failing to understand the logical fallacy of appeals to authority.

    The Forum Cultist. Forum cultists are extremely proud of the incredible Internet communities to which they belong. They pride themselves on the exclusivity of those communities and actually believe that "it can't happen to them" – "it," of course, being their own banishment. Forum cultists place a very high premium on groupthink and generally react to differing opinions with outrage, banning all who dare to speak them.

    The Pretend-novice: Has an agenda to push but pretends to not to understand arguments against said agenda in order to push the agenda further. By appearing to be a new user, she can get away with combativeness without appearing aggressive or hostile and can always excuse any poor arguments as ignorance or genuine inquiry. (credit: aysiu)
    Last edited by matthew; July 20th, 2009 at 04:44 AM. Reason: Added The Pretend-novice
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  3. #3
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    Re: The definitive guide to Trolls

    IMHO this is a very common type of troll :

    Anatomy of a well-intentioned Linux Troll
    http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=58017
    Last edited by ubuntu_demon; May 19th, 2006 at 11:55 AM.

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    Re: The definitive guide to Trolls

    Quote Originally Posted by ubuntu_demon
    I laughed out loud when I realized I was the first to post a response in that thread and somehow I had forgotten all about it...

    The difference between my thread and aysiu's is that my trolls are not well-intentioned...um, and his is probably better written.
    what's a troll? | my blog | my writing | Ubuntu Unleashed

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    Re: The definitive guide to Trolls

    Quote Originally Posted by matthew
    I laughed out loud when I realized I was the first to post a response in that thread and somehow I had forgotten all about it...


    Quote Originally Posted by matthew
    The difference between my thread and aysiu's is that my trolls are not well-intentioned
    I agree. Your thread is useful and fills a gap.

    Quote Originally Posted by matthew
    ...um, and his is probably better written.
    He's an ex-english teacher

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    Re: The definitive guide to Trolls

    As online communities go, ubuntuforums is quite troll-free. I have so far noticed one, and s/he isn't a frequent poster

    If you want to check out trolls, go see the Usenet newsgroup comp.os.linux.advocacy. COLA seems to attract quite a few "wintrolls", who some people accuse of actually being paid by Microsoft to spread FUD about open source.

    Alt.usenet.kooks is also good for a laugh.
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    Re: The definitive guide to Trolls

    The majority of our users are very nice people. This community is great!

    We as forum staff do our best to move the dubious threads to the backyard, jail threads when needed and (temp) ban trollers.

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    Re: The definitive guide to Trolls

    matthew:
    Thanks for this piece. I enjoyed it very much!

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    Re: The definitive guide to Trolls

    The majority of our users are very nice people. This community is great!

    We as forum staff do our best to move the dubious threads to the backyard, jail threads when needed and (temp) ban trollers.
    I stay here because of the community spirit. Also I do appreciate what you do. It makes this forum a better place.
    Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence. Abigail Adams ( 1744 - 1818 ), 1780;

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    Re: The definitive guide to Trolls

    Quote Originally Posted by Sef
    I stay here because of the community spirit. Also I do appreciate what you do. It makes this forum a better place.
    thnx

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