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don't feed the animals

by Guy Berliner Saturday, Jun. 30, 2001 at 2:23 AM

Sage words from the local zoo apply here too.

troll 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 is:
 
  troll v.,n.

1. [From the Usenet group alt.folklore.urban] To utter a posting on Usenet 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 than flame 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,

Guy Berliner

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saved from the troll dancergirl Saturday, Jun. 30, 2001 at 4:22 AM
ditto survivio Saturday, Jun. 30, 2001 at 3:09 PM

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