The Care and Feeding of Trolls

Feb 15, 2013
The Reptile Report
by Editor in Chief

The Reptile Report - My friends from may recognize this. I wrote it two or three years ago, but feel it is still quite relevant not only to my site, but to any Internet forum. I present to you: The Care and Feeding of Trolls…

The first step in caring for trolls is to make sure they have been properly identified. There are many forum species that might LOOK like trolls at first glance, but are actually quite different and have entirely different husbandry requirements. Let’s take a look at some of these similar species first:

Grammar Butcher — These folks don’t spell well, have no sense of sentence structure, and rarely make use of punctuation. Sometimes this is due to genuine deficiencies in education and should not imply that their motives are bad, only that they had a rough start in life. Sometimes it’s due to pure laziness, but even lazy people can be warmhearted and kind.

The Child — Not always easy to identify when all one has to go by is text on a screen. Some children may be mistaken as grammar butchers because their education hasn’t progressed very far. But some children can spell and write just fine. Their emotional responses will often come across as immature, confrontational, or even hostile. This is almost always due to nothing more sinister than a lack of life-experience in which they learn how best to get along with others. The child may sometimes be difficult to deal with, but they are usually sincere in their desire to be an accepted member of the group.

Anti-Diplomat — These guys will speak without thinking. They feel it is of the utmost importance that their opinion be expressed (often loudly) no matter what anyone thinks about it, or how it might make anyone feel. Some anti-diplomats have a gentle heart, but they lack the skills to express themselves in a productive manner. They have little sense of tact or decent timing. They frequently come across as confrontational and sometimes downright mean. But at the same time, they are exactly who they say they are. They may not be nice to deal with, but their intentions and reasons for being involved are just what they say.

The Foreigner — Often mistaken for a grammar butcher because they are trying to communicate in a language that they did not grow up with. Also, different cultures have different customs for expressing things like respect and gratitude, and such niceties can be lost in translation. But no matter where someone is from, or what language they were born to, their motivations are just as likely to be as warm and sincere as anyone’s.

Drama Royalty — Emotional. That is the key word to describe this group. Sometimes referred to as “drama queens” but that is a misnomer, because there are just as many males as females of this species. They take everything personally. Disagreements are usually seen as personal attacks. Frequently, they have a compulsive need to share every event of their life that causes an emotional ripple. They do best with lots of patience and a deft hand at diplomacy, but are harmless to the community.

Antagonist — This species is the bane of drama royalty. Sometimes they ally with the anti-diplomat, but are just as likely to poke sticks at them as well. They simply enjoy watching other people squirm and are greatly entertained by the effects of gasoline on fire. This is an unpleasant species to have in the community, but they are also likely to be valuable contributors. The smart ones establish their credentials before they begin their antagonistic games. The less than smart ones are often mistaken for trolls when they first show themselves.

Txt Typer — Too lazy to type out full words that they are perfectly capable of spelling, this one is just plain annoying to most who prefer to read in complete sentences. They show a general lack of respect for the community they are participating in, but at least they are usually honest about who they are and what their intentions are.

The Needy — This species needs their hand held over every little detail. They disdain search engines and scoff at reading anything that isn’t typed out for them specifically. They often need multiple answers to the same question…just to make sure they got it. They will ask a new question or even start a new thread for each step of whatever process they are trying to grasp. While they may try the patience of those helping them, they are at least sincere in their need for help.

These are but a few examples of species that are MISTAKEN for trolls. And when any of them are put into the same environment most reserve for trolls, the results can be disastrous.

Now, let’s take a look at what a real troll is:

THE TROLL — The troll may or may not exhibit any combination of the traits listed above. One must take the time to identify the KEY characteristics of a troll over and above the surface features. Trolls are rarely ever who they say they are. Trolls have the sole purpose of disrupting the community. They don’t want to learn anything or fix anything or be nice to anyone. They may start their own thread topic, but are far more likely to try and disrupt other threads. A troll will go after the weaker members (drama royalty, anti-diplomats, antagonists, the child) with a gusto, but they will also sling their barbs at any target that presents itself, including community leaders. It’s rare that a genuine troll can participate very long before giving in to the need to gloat and flash their true face at the community.

So what should a community do when they finally identify a troll within their midst? The answer is not an intuitive one. Knee-jerk reactions to trolls lead to a great many mistakes that cause more harm than the troll could have inflicted on its own.

Common Mistakes in Handling Trolls:

1. The MOST COMMON mistake is to call a troll a Troll. While doing so may make the “hunter” feel smart, all it actually accomplishes is to make the troll giggle. And if the hunter has misidentified the troll, they can cause serious damage to both their innocent target and to the site’s own reputation for friendliness and acceptance.

2. Arguing with a troll. This is exactly what the troll wants you to do. The more you argue, the harder they laugh. They don’t care one whit about how logical or how smart their target is. They got an argument, and they will go to town playing with it.

3. Turning on allies. This is a troll’s greatest goal. A truly supreme example of this nasty species can get a community to turn on itself and start taking out its own members. When there is blood in the water, and tempers are raging hot, it is critical that members be both able and willing to back out and take a long, hard look at who is truly the enemy.

How to Properly Feed a Troll:

Trolls will wander into any community from time to time. The larger and more diverse the community, the more likely they are to appear, AND the harder they are to properly identify. Once they appear, they must be dealt with in such a way that both protects the community at large and mitigates the damages the troll can cause before it moves on.

1. Number One Rule – BE NICE! Kill it with kindness. If all the members are kind and patient with the troll, then it receives no nourishment and gains no foothold with which to establish itself. It may scramble a little harder after being hit with a round of sheer niceness, but eventually, it will feel starved for real entertainment and move on to riper fields. This action also has a critical added benefit of making sure the similar but innocent species get the help and acceptance they need and builds the overall good reputation of the community.

2. Ignore them. This can be very difficult, but for some it’s the only alternative to the impossible task of being nice. If the trolls are ignored, that will also contribute to a rapid starvation and will have them quickly moving on. And, if one isn’t poking sticks at the trolls, then one isn’t at risk of accidentally poking an innocent with the same stick.

3. PRIVATELY alert the Community Leaders. If one suspects a troll, the best way to express that is in private to a moderator or site administrator. They have tools at their disposal that the rest of the community does not have. They can, and will, use these tools to both identify, and root out if necessary, any genuine trolls.

FEED THE TROLLS!!! Feed them kindness, patience, and compassion. They can’t stomach it and will quickly move on to other hunting grounds. Any other food source, even the war-cry of “Do Not Feed the Trolls” is not only pure enjoyment for them, it is, in the long run, harmful to the very community it wishes to protect.

Judy Clothier

Chief Editor of The Reptile Report

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