Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Trolls: What they are and how to deal


The Urban Dictionary defines a troll as, "One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument." Chances are, if you blog for any length of time, you'll come across a troll in one of your posts' comments. So how do you deal with these fun-suckers?

This is really something you need to decide on before you encounter trolls. Are you going to delete their comment or let it stand? Whichever way you decide to go, you should make it and your rationale clear in your commenting policies, if you have them. Just remember the number one rule for dealing with trolls: DO NOT ENGAGE. That way madness lies.

Now, there are two types of trolls. The obvious kind simply spits vitriol at you or another commenter without referencing the post at all. These trolls are easy to ignore/delete.

But there's another, sneakier sort of troll out there. These people have Google alerts for their favorite topics so they can visit peoples' blogs and yell at anyone who doesn't agree with them. These types of trolls are harder to ignore because:

  1. They insult your integrity/intelligence/pride.
  2. They push one or many of your "Someone on the internet is wrong!" buttons.
  3. They reference the post, so you can't in good conscience delete their comment.
  4. You think they must have misunderstood what you were trying to say. And if you just esplaiiiiin to them, they'll realize the error of their ways.

They will not realize the error of their ways, they will not admit you are right. They are trying to start an argument for the sole purpose of amusing themselves and upsetting you. DO NOT ENGAGE.

Now, this second type of troll can be a little tricky to recognize, so here are some signs your upsetting commenter is a troll:

  • They're upsetting you.
  • You have never seen him/her anywhere on the bookternet before.
  • Their comment contains straw man arguments or ad hominem attacks (which are some pretty sophisticated rhetorical tools... these people are professional assholes, like politicians).
  • The commenter seems to be spoiling for a fight.

If you think a commenter might be one of these trolls, it's best to let their comment stand and IGNORE THEM. You can have your friends call them out for you, but I know from personal experience this does no favor to your friends and doesn't reflect well on your blog, either. You know that phrase from the Bible, Turn the other cheek? That's just as good a policy on the internet as in real life. Allow the comment sink slowly to the bottom of the thread and let it go.

So, just to review, what's the first rule of dealing with trolls?

do not feed the trolls


  1. Thanks!!! Good tips and techniques, but it basically boils down to: ignore.

    Something very good to remember!

    -Rebecca @ Love at First Book

  2. LOL!!! at "these people are professional assholes, like politicians"

    Great advice.

  3. Haha! This post is both hilarious and true! FB has trolls too! Just keep scrolling by!

  4. I agree with this advice for the most part -- it really does seem like a waste of time/energy to engage a troll, and the advice to Just Say Nothing is very wise.

    However, one of the book blogs I follow has the opposite approach, and it seems to've been pretty effective for them -- the number of trollish comments on their site has dropped significantly, at least as far as I've seen. This is their approach:

    a) They use the "edit comment" function to add a little banner above the comment itself, warning people that it's a troll. In addition...

    b) One of the site moderators makes a brief response, usually to the effect of, "Hey, guess what? If you don't like our blog, you don't have to read it!" Now, usually, this is the extent of the blog-owners' action. However, when one commenter recently used a particularly nasty slur against them (the "c" word)…

    c) They not only gave this person a "Magnificent Ass award" banner (and, again, it's a testament to how well their troll policies seem to be working that I haven't seen one of these banners in ages), not only made the usual "You don't have to read our blog, you know" response, but they decided he deserved a week of mockery via blog posts specifically referencing his comment, and turning his intended insult into a springboard for positive discussion of the "c," both in terms of the literal thing it's referring to and its representations and associations. For reference, here is the first post in their "C" Week.

    Now, I agree this seems like not only feeding the troll, but giving him a ton of attention…they acknowledge that they could've just ignored the original comment. But I do think they created a good discussion about the slur in our society. And the blog's supporters responded very positively to the discussion.

    I guess what I'm saying is that dealing with trolls is a case-by-case thing. For the MOST part, it's wise to ignore them, but there may be the rare case where engaging leads to hilarious/informative results.

  5. Ha! Good post here and really good advice!

  6. Great post, Tasha! I've been lucky not to have experienced any trolls at my blog, but I have seen them around the internet. They need to crawl back under the bridge where they belong.

  7. I'm new to blogging and so I appreciate any advice. Thanks so much for this article.


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