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What it is and what to do about it

Here I will give you a definition of Troll, some links on Trolling (in Usenet) and an explanation of Shunning and how it works.

This definition is taken from
The Jargon Dictionary : Terms : The T Terms : troll

-- definition --

troll /v.,n./ [From the Usenet group alt.folklore.urban]
To utter a posting on Usenet designed to attract predictable responses or flames. Derives from the phrase "trolling for newbies" which in turn comes from mainstream "trolling", a style of fishing in which one trails bait through a likely spot hoping for a bite. The well-constructed troll is a post that induces lots of newbies and flamers to make themselves look even more clueless than they already do, while subtly conveying to the more savvy and experienced that it is in fact a deliberate troll. If you don't fall for the joke, you get to be in on it.
Some people claim that the troll is properly a narrower category than flame bait, that a troll is categorized by containing some assertion that is wrong but not overtly controversial.
-- end definition --

Here are some links to pages about Trolling in Newsgroups (these are all about Usenet, but it still applies)

alt.syntax.tactical FAQ Dealing with Trolls Crossposting and Flames Rev 19990815 (this is a large page with lots of links, but if your mood isn't just right it will be a difficult read).

Usenet Troll Page

The Troller's FAQ Homepage Includes the famous page The Subtle Art Of Trolling

How To Avoid Being Trolled

Internet Songbook: Trolling In The Newsgroups Humorous song sung to the tune of "Smoking In The Boys Room"

On Shunning

When it comes to trolls all you can do is Ignore.

Post on topic, and if a troll posts to the thread, post on topic again with a new subject line. If everyone in the group does it, and totally ignores the trolls, they usually move on sooner or later.

This practice (called Shunning) includes that no mention of the trolls takes place in the NG. No posts about them, no responses, nothing, they are shunned as if they did not exist.

There is no other way to successfully deal with this problem.

I have seen Shunning work in groups. What happens is when someone just _has_ to respond, they write an e-mail to a couple of other regulars in the group, and then discuss it back and forth that way.

This works because it is a way to vent the frustrations felt, but still not acknowledge the trolls in the group. Usually, if someone writes to the person responding in the group and says "when you need to respond, please write to me instead" it will work.

If the majority of the group is Shunning, and just a couple of people are responding in the group, sometimes it takes an e-mail explaining to the person that they are behaving a poorly as the Trolls, and they are negating and making null all the work of the rest of the group. You can explain that if they do not stop, their posts will be considered trolling and they will also be ignored.

Of course, you must write these e-mails very nicely and politely, not with anger. This will usually work for some of the people.

Then, there are those who will not stop no matter what. The only answer there is to Shun them just like the trolls. There will be threads of just them arguing with the trolls, but the group must post around those just like they will post around the troll posts.

Once people know they can e-mail others in the group, and once they are shown that their behavior is unacceptable, they will usually stop. Stressing the belonging on the inside, and being able to work with the others towards the greater goal, and understanding that every time they do NOT hit send they are making a very strong statement, and that as the group works _together_ they will succeed usually helps.

And truthfully, a group can get much tighter and stronger if they can do this. Even if the trolls never leave, the action of NOT responding, all together, brings the people in the group closer.

Any e-mails to the regulars in a group who are still responding must be kind, gentle, and considerate. Never angry or harsh. Remember, you catch more flies with Honey than with Vinegar.


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