Yes, troll hunting and elimination has become a popular and time consuming sport in most internet communities. I've often expressed my general feelings on trolls, and secretly have a bit of an affection for the underdog troll, and I feel one should also look at some of the positive purposes that trolls can serve.
They break up the monotony of "good" reading. When all the blogs or comments are "good" then it can become a bit boring. When someone comes along with a personal attack, an outrageously stupid comment, or a blog meant to incite - then admit it... don't you watch that thread? Don't you sit back, grab a bag of popcorn and wait for the fireworks? It's entertainment.
They instill a sense of superiority. When you see a pitifully poor blog, don't you suddenly feel like the best blogger in the world? Even if you can manage to string together two paragraphs and use a spell checker - you, yes you, are superior. No need to compete with those long, well formulated blogs that will likely get promoted to the front page... the bar has been lowered and suddenly everyone has moved up the food chain.
They can help bond the community together. When an obvious troll goes on the attack with a "Destrucoid sucks" blog or comment, there is a stronger feeling of community as everyone pulls out the pitchforks, fires up their torches... and the villagers march as one in defense of their home.
They provide an aggression outlet. We all have those bad hair days. Those days when you just want to kick a puppy - and look! - there's a handy troll! Poke him with a stick... taunt him a few times to see him puff up and do his little troll dance. Feels better doesn't it! When these random idiot trolls aren't available, members have been known to turn on their own - never a good thing even if they kiss and make up later. The tensions are often still there and the community has been breached. Trolls inadvertently provide a handy target for those aggressions.
So yes, trolls do add a certain "spice" to internet life and to online communities. They keep things interesting, they keep the bar a little lower so we can feel good about ourselves and they draw a community closer together. The problems of course occur with persistent trolls or with the bigger, stronger, smellier "breeding" stock of trolls - those that can grow into an annoying troll horde. While moderation can be helpful in banning these bigger trolls and sending them off to live in other online habitats, they often find their way back - and we all know the answer - the answer of course is not to feed them.
Yes, it's hard not to feed the trolls. They're obvious and annoying as they loudly stamp their big hairy feet, whining and crying in their quest for attention, and it's difficult to resist the urge to whack them over the head ... but resist we must! There are two proven methods of human resistance... the first involves screaming into a pillow, the second involves furious typing into notepad with a mandatory internet disconnection. Should neither of these methods work, be aware that you are growing hairy and developing a pungently offensive odor and risk turning into a troll yourself.
Trolls exude a strong unpleasant odor. When reading a blog or comment, if you feel your nose wrinkling and go "ewww"... chances are strong you have encountered a Troll. If you smell no odor and on reading a blog your first instinct is to respond with profanity or a dissertation about how the author is wrong (and the likelihood that their mother was unmarried at the time of their birth), then you may in fact be morphing into a Troll yourself. Once you get hairy feet and become a troll, the original troll has successfully bred (yes, you've been screwed) and the trolls are winning.
It really all comes down to common sense and an adage I've always preached...
If you feed a troll, you have to adopt it.
The smaller, weaker trolls are delicate creatures. When encountering one of these smaller trolls, approach with caution as they have been known to bite! Any sudden motions or posts may startle the little troll and cause a rise in aggressive behavior, so try to keep quiet and simply observe the troll as it plays with itself! (double entendre intended!). If you feel that you can train the troll, then feel free to offer it a tidbit if you want to adopt it and have it to follow you home.
Many of these smaller trolls are actually inadvertent trolls. They don't actually know that they are trolls. They just jump into a community and may see large comment numbers on one paragraph blogs filled with bad spelling and grammar and so they follow the popular samples. They may have a unique way of writing that can initially come across as arrogant, elitist or pretentious. They may not understand the difference between a blog post and a forum post. They may have a distinct console bias (which doesn't mean that they are trying to create a flame war or "hate" the other console... just that they really like their console choice). They may even be a resident troll... someone some people just love to hate. They may be young, English may not be their first language, or they might be old and senile like myself. While many of these smaller trolls may never produce a decent blog worthy of the front page - many might turn out to be fun people to game with that contribute to the community in other ways. These are often potentially adoptable trolls.
Now when you feed a troll and adopt it by making a comment, it will usually do one of two things, it will quickly learn the unwritten house rules and may gradually train itself into a valued community member... or it may bite the hand that fed it and may even go on a rampage for more food. This often manifests itself in the "everybody hates me" blog or the "I hate everybody" blog. They might then proceed to publicly and proudly belch, fart, burp and leave their little piles of crap scattered throughout the community. Just remember that if you adopted this troll, this is now your responsibility! You now have to cut off it's food supply and hope it will move on in search of food elsewhere. You have to withhold comments!
So in conclusion, consider adopting a troll! Many of the smaller trolls have very human-like feelings. Handle them with care and they may turn out to be a wonderful asset to the community in some form. With the larger, smellier trolls who's only purpose is to advertise some god-awful comic strip, or incite wrath through personal attacks or aggressive attention-whoring - these trolls are wild, feral - unadoptable. Don't feed them and keep your distance! Get to know the difference. No community is truly complete without a few random trolls, but one has to be wary and avoid the rabid, feral trolls.
Please feel free to sign up for some of our courses on the "Care and Training of your Troll" Some of the workshops offered include:
"Taking your Troll out in Public" - what you can expect, special precautions to take, safety and legal requirements (yes, the troll muzzle is still a requirement).
"Dressing your Troll" - a fashion show with some adorable lil troll outfits, muzzles and harnasses! Cute hats that hide the face and fashion friendly outfits that hide those diaper lines!
"Letting your Troll play with other Trolls" - a lively discussion is to be expected regarding the use of foam toys and the most effective use of pepper spray or firehose control methods."
Sign up now!