TEH TROLLZ!!! lololololololol
You can’t surf the web these days without encountering the internet phenomenon known as The Troll.
It’s the user who makes fun of everyone else; it’s the user who steadfastly refuses to acknowledge logic; it’s the user who says the most outrageous crap ever known to human ears; it’s the user who never, ever goes away. Ever.
If you’re lucky in your surfing habits, you may be able to avoid the worst of it. Thriving community websites like Slashdot, StackOverflow, and most open source projects (Apache, MySQL, PHP, Joomla!, Drupal, WordPress, etc…) that are well-established have a solid moderation system in place to mitigate the worst of trolling. Still, a certain degree of it is unavoidable.
Especially once you venture out of the spotlight and into the warm, dark, damp undergrowths of the internet’s back alleys. Case in point, 4chan. Particularly /b/.
Mattathias Schwartz wrote an article in the New York Times titled “The World of Web Trolling” and mentioned some of the more public and heinous (and somewhat illegal) acts of internet trolling that have occurred over the years. Trolls are, at the very least, a nuisance to put up with, but at their worst they can be dangerous. Mr Schwartz interviewed known “trolls” who make a living off such activities, blurred between legal and illegal – or outright illegal – though they may be.
And generally speaking, trolls don’t give a flip about the people they impact.
In doing some research on trolls, I came across a website by Mike Reed where he enumerated the different types of trolls one can encounter on the web. And I have to admit, based on my limited experience, he’s right on.
Some of my greatest experiences with trolls, interestingly enough, has come from being an avid gamer back in the early days of my college career. Anyone remember Jedi Outcast? 😛
My freshman year, I joined a clan (oh yes I did), and over a year or so worked myself through the ranks to be one of the five chief administrators of the clan and its web domain. I remained at that post until we came to the decision to disband, given the aging game and vanishing player pool.
While we certainly had to deal with the occasional troll to our forums, much more pressing was maintaining our servers from the gaming equivalent. In the wake of the game’s departure from the “mainstream” – i.e. when its priced dropped to $9.99 – and the bulk of the gamers moved on to other adventures, the people who were left were either utterly clueless (“how do I browser”), members of clans, or someone from this interesting demographic of hardcore gaming trolls.
These were individuals who shot their mouths as often as they shot their missile launchers. Most frustrating of all was the fact that they were almost as good as their incessant and ceaseless barrages of reminders would have you believe. Still, I lost count how many times my mother was insulted, how many times I was accused of having no sex life and being completely undesirable, how many times I was labeled a complete and total failure at life, and just how often I was made to feel like scum.
Still, it’s amazing what getting your ass kicked a few times by these guys will accomplish; in sticking it out long enough, I learned how to beat them consistently. That’s by far the best way to shut them up, buahahaha.
But that’s not an option to people who a) put more effort into their first year or two of college than I did, and b) are in any level of school or professional life beyond the first year or two of college. That sort of time for honing one’s skills just isn’t there anymore. That sort of time for moderating forums and communities to keep them free of rabblerousing comments and inflammatory gestures just isn’t available.
So what to do? Curiously enough, it’s the same recipe I was given repeatedly by my parents, back when I was aged in the single digits and would frequently become annoyed by the antics of my younger sisters:
Easier said than done, of course. But as Mr Schwartz eloquently alluded to, they’re just looking for a response. Without it, they’re like a bank without a bailout.