Since la.indymedia.org / sandiego.indymedia.org has recently
received a surge of attention in the wake of the BIO conference, it's fitting
to take note of some of the unfortunately unwelcome attention that inevitably
comes along with the largely welcome kind. I refer to the noticeable uptick
in insulting and baiting invectives with which the site is here and there
littered of late. While it shouldn't overly concern us, we should use common
sense in handling it. On Usenet, there is a word for the authors of this
kind of material. They are called "trolls." The definition of "troll" from
the Computer Jargon Dictionary
1. [From the Usenet group alt.folklore.urban] To utter a posting
designed to attract predictable responses or flames;
or, the post itself. 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. See also YHBT.
2. An individual who chronically trolls in sense 1; regularly posts specious
arguments, flames or personal attacks to a newsgroup, discussion list,
or in email for no other purpose than to annoy someone or disrupt a discussion.
Trolls are recognizable by the fact that they have no real interest in
learning about the topic at hand - they simply want to utter flame bait.
Like the ugly creatures they are named after, they exhibit no redeeming
characteristics, and as such, they are recognized as a lower form of life
on the net, as in, "Oh, ignore him, he's just a troll." Compare kook.
3. [Berkeley] Computer lab monitor. A popular campus job for CS students.
Duties include helping newbies and ensuring that lab policies are followed.
Probably so-called because it involves lurking in dark cavelike corners.
Some people claim that the troll (sense 1) is properly a narrower category
bait, that a troll is categorized by containing some assertion
that is wrong but not overtly controversial. See also Troll-O-Meter.
The use of `troll' in either sense is a live metaphor that readily produces
elaborations and combining forms. For example, one not infrequently sees
the warning "Do not feed the troll" as part of a followup to troll postings.
Now, having defined the term, it becomes much easier to detect and figure
out what to do with them. As the venerable Jargon Dictionary points out
above, the sage counsel of every veteran is "don't feed the animals." Ignore
them. They will tire of their antics much quicker if they don't get the
responses they want. Remember, by definition, they're not here because
they take any kind of active interest in the opinions of others, least
of all anyone here. Whether they're cops, rightwing agitators, or whatever
else, it's pointless to engage them.
What's another surefire sign of a troll? How about someone posting a
message to the newswire that
reads, "What on earth was all that protesting about? Much todo about
nothing! I never could figure it out!" Somehow, they managed to follow
the news close enough to pick up on the existence of this site, managed
to wade past the numerous detailed arguments (albeit amidst some admixture
of their own and other's incoherent diatribes), but never could figure
out what anyone was protesting?
Or how about someone posting a series of insults, repeated over and
over again, while resolutely ignoring any rational arguments. That's another
surefire sign of a troll. Obviously true trolls will not take the trouble
to read and respond to detailed arguments. They are not here to challenge
themselves with intellectual polemics.
Anyhow, you get the picture: Don't feed the trolls!
Thanks in advance,