Who's That Tripping Over My Bridge!?

{"In the guise of Administrator of Macworld's forums I deal with both encouraging and enervating members. Recently I've attracted the attention of the latter sort of individual -- a variety of troll commonly referred to as a "Klingon" (for his penchant for "clinging onto" the target of his ire). I've taken measures to lessen the impact of this person's actions to the point where I now find him more amusing than annoying, but it occurred to me that others may not know how to effectively deal with such people. With that in mind, I'd like to use today's entry to shed some light on the dark world of trolls.

I can't pretend to understand why trolls are trolls. Some are so infatuated by the sound of their own voice that they'll shout down anyone who disagrees with them. These folks are often on a "crusade" to educate others who are just too stupid to understand the brilliance of their arguments. Some are the kind of cowardly bullies who, as children, hid behind fences and hurled dirt clods at smaller kids. Yet others are simply crackpots with too much time on their hands.

Regardless of the kind of troll you're dealing with, the most effective way to handle them is to deny them the attention they crave. Trolls can not be convinced that their behavior is inappropriate or that their arguments are fatuous. Their mission in life is to annoy others and they like nothing better than to get a rise out of people.

If you're a member of a message board or newsgroup and encounter a troll, it's best to ignore them or report the troll to the powers that be. Let the people in charge mete out sterner measures such as banning the troll or, if necessary, filing an abuse report with the troll's ISP.

If you are a Power That Is, you can be a little more creative than banning a troll by username and IP address. For example, there's a plugin called "," that will remove all vowels from a comment in a blog created with ",". Other sites I've visited have been known to edit a troll's remarks to make them appear even more foolish.

For example, a tirade along the lines of :

","

can be edited to read:

","

(Note: Macworld employs neither of these tactics but rather bans trolls outright.)

Should a troll escalate the abuse to something more personal such as abusive email or slanderous public postings you have some recourse.

In the case of email, the same rules apply as with public postings. Don't respond. To do so is to play the troll's game. Rather, either filter the troll's mail so that it's immediately deleted or create a rule that files it away in its own mailbox. The latter course is better if the troll appears to be the type to get out of hand or the email keeps coming. Should you later need to pursue action against the troll (most states have "," laws on the books) you have a record of the abuse.

If the abuse has moved out onto the Web, a complaint filed with the troll's ISP (in the form of abuse@troll'sisp.com) is a good place to start -- provided you have the troll's real email address (many of these miscreants have fake addresses). You should also contact the webmaster of the site where the abuse has occurred and politely ask them to remove the offensive material and suggest that appropriate action be taken to prevent further postings from this individual.

It's regrettable that anyone should have to deal with these poor creatures, but if you keep the basics in mind -- ignore and, if necessary, report -- trolls will be nothing but a very minor annoyance. "}

  
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