Constructive suggestions for dealing with trolls July 8, 2005 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Some constructive suggestions for dealing with trolls . . . [more inside]
posted by Zonker to Etiquette/Policy at 1:41 PM (55 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I know little or nothing about managing an online discussion, and I suspect that many other MeFites are in the same situation. Theresa Nielsen Hayden, however, knows a great deal about the subject. Her "Making Light" blog boasts some of the most consistently interesting and worthwhile comments on the web. She's posted some thoughts on her approach to moderation, and the entire article is worth a careful read for anyone who runs or participates in an online community.

The 13 principles she lists all strike me as valid, but the following seem particularly relevant to our community, in light of yesterday's unpleasantness:
1. There can be no ongoing discourse without some degree of moderation, if only to kill off the hardcore trolls. . . . Providing the space but not tending the conversation is like expecting that your front yard will automatically turn itself into a garden. . . .
6. Civil speech and impassioned speech are not opposed and mutually exclusive sets. Being interesting trumps any amount of conventional politeness. . . .
9. If you judge that a post is offensive, upsetting, or just plain unpleasant, it's important to get rid of it, or at least make it hard to read. Do it as quickly as possible. There's no more useless advice than to tell people to just ignore such things. We can't. We automatically read what falls under our eyes.
She also has some good advice for dealing with problem users:
10. Another important rule: You can let one jeering, unpleasant jerk hang around for a while, but the minute you get two or more of them egging each other on, they both have to go, and all their recent messages with them. There are others like them prowling the net, looking for just that kind of situation. More of them will turn up, and they'll encourage each other to behave more and more outrageously. Kill them quickly and have no regrets.
But on the other hand:
8. Grant more lenience to participants who are only part-time jerks, as long as they're valuable the rest of the time.
Nielsen Hayden also advocates "disemvowelling" as a way of dealing with offensive comments. The idea is that instead of deleting a post, you make it difficult to read by deleting all the vowels from it. (I.e., "Get bent, you losers" becomes "Gt bnt, y lsrs". You can see how it works using this web form demonstration.) It's still there, and the content can be figured out with a bit of effort, but most readers will just skip past it, keeping the discussion on track. This might be a useful addition to the tools of our mods here, as an intermediate step between deleting an offensive comment (displeasing those who don't like deletions) and leaving it untouched (and running the risk of an argument).
Finally, I think that Matt and Jessamyn mostly do a very good job of running things around here. I'm sure that it's all too often a thankless job, so thank you both very much. Also, I'm not suggesting that MeFi should be run exactly as Making Light is; every community is unique and should be treated that way. I do want to offer the article I linked to as a resource for the mods to consider. Posted as a separate thread because both of the MeTa threads linked above are about specific actions of specific users, and I hope to avoid that here. And sorry for the delayed [more], connection trouble.
posted by Zonker at 1:55 PM on July 8, 2005 [3 favorites]


Best way to deal with trolls:

1 - disable posting privileges. Like, all of them. For everybody. Thermonuclear option. Instead of giving one person an extended posting break, give everyone a break. They can spend the time to take a walk in a meadow, watch the sunset, read a good book, have a cook-out with the neighbours, or just take a nap. It could last for a few days, then we could all share our experiences.

2 - reduce MetaTalk's role to discussing meet-ups, technical bug reports, and technical feature requests. It serves as a lightning rod for trolling and people getting frothy and nutty. (mmm...nutty)
posted by tweak at 1:59 PM on July 8, 2005


one last thing:

I would be remiss in any talk about trolling without asking if someone would please write a greasemonkey script to make all of quonsar's posts invisible when I visit this website. Thanks love.
posted by tweak at 2:04 PM on July 8, 2005


And after all the fuss of getting it posted, of course I mess up the formatting and the link to Making Light. Ugh.
posted by Zonker at 2:16 PM on July 8, 2005


tweak writes "2 - reduce MetaTalk's role to discussing meet-ups, technical bug reports, and technical feature requests"

In addition, consider anything posted to MetaTalk that falls out of this limited range trolling, and see point 1. And do you want q posts invisible to you when you visit or invisible to everybody while you visit?
posted by nkyad at 2:22 PM on July 8, 2005


Not sure why my comment was deleted, Matt, but:

Nice read, thanks, Zonker.
posted by Rothko at 2:29 PM on July 8, 2005


I hate that disemvowelling thing. It looks like IM by 13 year olds.
posted by dness2 at 2:36 PM on July 8, 2005


Touché deletion-god.. touché.
posted by odinsdream at 2:37 PM on July 8, 2005


The idea is that instead of deleting a post, you make it difficult to read by deleting all the vowels from it. (I.e., "Get bent, you losers" becomes "Gt bnt, y lsrs".

Tht mght wrk fr sm frms, bt  fr t wld nl ncrg sm ppl n MF t tr nd s hw mn f thr cmmnts th cld gt dsmvwlld.

s fr th wb frm Znkr lnks t, 'm mldl mprssd tht t ttmpts t dstngsh vwl y's frm cnsnnt y's (rthr thn lbllng ll y's nfrml s n r th thr), bt t's nt ntrl sccssfl.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:38 PM on July 8, 2005


quonsar writes "ooooo! deletions in progress!"
Rothko writes "Not sure why my comment was deleted, Matt, but:"

Have you guys lost your sense of humor? RTFA: "9. If you judge that a post is offensive, upsetting, or just plain unpleasant, it’s important to get rid of it, or at least make it hard to read. Do it as quickly as possible. There’s no more useless advice than to tell people to just ignore such things. We can’t. We automatically read what falls under our eyes." Meta-deletions, that's what those were...
posted by nkyad at 2:38 PM on July 8, 2005


10 sounds right.
posted by amberglow at 2:42 PM on July 8, 2005


I'd love to see disemvowelling or some other kind of intervention record here. I hate comments disappearing without leaving a trace.
posted by timeistight at 2:43 PM on July 8, 2005


Meta-deletions, that's what those were...

I hardly see how my deleted comment was offensive, upsetting or just plain unpleasant in any humanly conceivable manner. Perhaps it was just a mistake.
posted by Rothko at 2:44 PM on July 8, 2005


sshl
posted by dodgygeezer at 2:46 PM on July 8, 2005


Rothko, there was nothing improper about your comment (IMHO), I'm sure it was only zapped in the course of clearing out the other (more trollish) ones posted in the enormous length of time it took me to get the "more" posted "inside".

dness2, it's kind of the point that disemvowelled text looks like a 13-year-old AOLer. The idea is not only to prevent arguments from breaking out, but also to make the trolls look silly, in the hopes that they'll then stop trolling. It appears to have worked on at least some sites.
posted by Zonker at 2:59 PM on July 8, 2005


nkyad: just me, but if it were applied to everyone the collective blood pressure of this place would go way down.
posted by tweak at 2:59 PM on July 8, 2005


Or we could have rolling ban-outs like the kind used to manage power blackouts.

They could be completely random and therefore equitable.
posted by tweak at 3:07 PM on July 8, 2005


[fixed zonker's link, I think]
posted by jessamyn at 3:26 PM on July 8, 2005


tweak writes "just me, but if it were applied to everyone the collective blood pressure of this place would go way down."

I don't want to turn this into another quonsar discussion - my point of view is that people tend to overreact royally around here. I don't even think he's annoying most of time and sometimes he's even cute.
posted by nkyad at 3:52 PM on July 8, 2005


I hardly see how my deleted comment was offensive, upsetting or just plain unpleasant in any humanly conceivable manner. Perhaps it was just a mistake.

I was just clearing the way so the more inside followed by taking out all the people jumping the turnstyle.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:52 PM on July 8, 2005


Disable posting privileges. Like, all of them. For everybody.

This actually happened in 2000 in the "off-topic" section of the POV-Ray (3D graphic software) newgroups. One POV-Ray user was one of the oldest and most obnoxious troll ever, who had started trolling in the BBS days (he has his name on 153000 Usenet posts and still posts several messages a day on various forums). In the weeks preceding the US 2000 presidential election, he started pushing extremely shrill and insulting pro-Bush messages mixed with antisemitic / Holocaust denial rants. The place soon became a permanent crapfest and regular users started to leave in disgust. After a few weeks of mayhem the admins decided to ban the troll, pull the plug on the forum and let everyone cool down. The forum only reopened in 2001, well after the election.

After several unsuccessful attempts (under different aliases) at posting in the groups in 2001-2003, our troll managed to get through again in 2004, just in time for the new US election, but now with long-winded anti-Bush, anti-American rants that fooled everyone for a while, even the folks who were keeping watch. He finally shot himself in the foot by linking to a site he found "interesting", i.e. his own.
posted by elgilito at 4:05 PM on July 8, 2005 [1 favorite]


Trolls can exist in any forum. Imagine conversing with friends at a party and some dumbass says something racist (for example) and starts laughing. I'm sure you would just cringe for a moment and continue the conversations thus ignoring dumbass.

This works. And well. Nothing hurts as much as simply being ignored.

Disenvoweling? It's annoying and brings more attention to the troll/dumbass.
posted by snsranch at 4:21 PM on July 8, 2005


The idea is that instead of deleting a post, you make it difficult to read by deleting all the vowels from it. (I.e., "Get bent, you losers" becomes "Gt bnt, y lsrs". You can see how it works using this web form demonstration.)

That is one of the stupidest web-related pieces of advice I have ever heard. The input:output usefulness ratio is stupid. Suddenly a circle-jerk sounds productive.

Question: does anyone find this hard to read in less than 0.6 seconds: "Gt bnt, y lsrs"? No? Me either...
posted by nthdegx at 4:32 PM on July 8, 2005


MetaTalk: Jumping the turnstile.
posted by loquacious at 4:42 PM on July 8, 2005


Question: does anyone find this hard to read in less than 0.6 seconds: "Gt bnt, y lsrs"? No?

No, but I'm Welsh, and that stuff is like flirtatious banter.
posted by Rothko at 4:47 PM on July 8, 2005


Ths s stpd.
posted by clevershark at 5:01 PM on July 8, 2005


6. Civil speech and impassioned speech are not opposed and mutually exclusive sets. Being interesting trumps any amount of conventional politeness. . . .

This I like. Personally, sometimes I don't think there's anything wrong with "attacking the man" rather than the idea. (I mean, look at my record on PP and H7). I truly believe that some people out there are obnoxious. They act like arseholes. Their personality is geared towards stirring up shit. So I don't see anything much wrong with confronting them on those grounds and exposing them as arseholes, independent of what their "ideas" might be. If I think someone is being a complete bastard, why should I stay silent or be forced into a "debating-contest" style intellectual battle with them? Sometimes it's good to just call a spade a spade in the most entertaining way possible.
posted by Jimbob at 5:34 PM on July 8, 2005


Teresa Nielsen Hayden likes to "disemvowel" any posts that don't affirm her opinions. I was looking for an old thread on her site that had a very informative, cogent discussion on the publishing industry's treatment of writers and every single post that didn't agree with her had been rendered illegible. These were not trolls. They were people who were willing to engage in real discussion and had a lot of interesting experiences. Sort of not the model I'd like to see for moderation here.
posted by transona5 at 5:55 PM on July 8, 2005 [1 favorite]


This thread is an example of why trolling always achieves its purpose.

Have a nice day.
posted by angry modem at 6:22 PM on July 8, 2005


Thank you, I will. - luv m
posted by mischief at 6:52 PM on July 8, 2005


I love Metafilter!
posted by ParisParamus at 7:10 PM on July 8, 2005


Ths s rjnn skpvw thrpslf ss. Blw m. Qrjzhhr fr chrstbrd mtfltr plrwz vwxp!!!
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:48 PM on July 8, 2005


"Being interesting trumps any amount of conventional politeness.

Oh. That sure leaves us out, eh five_fresh_fish?
posted by davy at 8:27 PM on July 8, 2005


Angry
posted by caddis at 8:36 PM on July 8, 2005


I love Metafilter!

nothing worse than unrequited love, is there, pp? ... although judging from this thread, you aren't totally unrequited on all emotions ... even if some do not dare speak your name ...

on preview ... omg, caddis, brush your teeth and use some deoderant!
posted by pyramid termite at 9:20 PM on July 8, 2005


If ParisParamus is allowed to be banned, the trolls have won.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:23 PM on July 8, 2005


Metafilter: like flirtatious banter.
posted by OmieWise at 9:30 PM on July 8, 2005


2 - reduce MetaTalk's role to discussing meet-ups, technical bug reports, and technical feature requests. It serves as a lightning rod for trolling [...]

This is possibly the most wrongheaded thing I've read about MeFi/MeTa this year. Kudos! This kind of total lack of understanding of the finely-balanced community dynamic of this site makes the baby jesus cry, though.

Every time someone bows and scrapes to The Authorities (in this case, mathowie and jessamyn, who do a fine job of keeping things running, I agree, of course), and says things like 'flag it and move on', I throw up a little into my mouth.

Appeals to authority rather than your fellow users means moving away from the self-policing model that Metatalk offers, and threatens to fuck up the very thing that makes this place (somewhat) unique.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:28 PM on July 8, 2005


some people you just love to hate, and though they may not be popular they are an essential part of the metafilter i know and love to hate.
posted by sophist at 11:52 PM on July 8, 2005


It's definitely good that we all have the power to make stavrosthewonderchicken throw up a little in his mouth. Me? Whenever I see anyone modify the word unique I shit in my trousers.
posted by nthdegx at 12:57 AM on July 9, 2005 [1 favorite]


Question: does anyone find this hard to read in less than 0.6 seconds: "Gt bnt, y lsrs"? No?

No, but I'm Welsh, and that stuff is like flirtatious banter.
posted by Rothko at 4:47 PM PST on July 8 [!]


Rothko wins for humor and good sportsmanship.

Special recognition to Mathowie: for "jump the turnstile".
and the earlier "shaving the yak".
posted by Cranberry at 1:29 AM on July 9, 2005


one last thing:

I would be remiss in any talk about trolling without asking if someone would please write a greasemonkey script to make all of quonsar's posts invisible when I visit this website. Thanks love.
posted by tweak at 2:04 PM PST on July 8 [!]


Just install this. You'll have to do some monkeying to create your own killfile (the script has a hard-coded link to the author's own killfile), but I just installed it now. Amazing how quickly this thread cleared out.
posted by RakDaddy at 6:07 PM on July 9, 2005


The best way to deal with trolls is to ignore him/her, flag it and move on. But, as this is MeFi, that ain't gonna happen. All too often the comment/thread gets dragged to MeTa and turns into the usual pissing contest/circle jerk and nothing ever changes. Also, too damned often, the person calling "troll" really just disagrees with what the "troll" has said and personalizes it. Get over yourselves already - it really isn't all about you.
posted by deborah at 7:23 PM on July 9, 2005


nothing ever changes

I've been saying this for years, but nobody seems to believe it. "I know that if I'm just eloquent enough in MetaTalk, I can save MeFi!"
posted by languagehat at 8:14 PM on July 9, 2005


Troll is a verb.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:18 PM on July 9, 2005


What a Nazi.
posted by delmoi at 9:14 PM on July 9, 2005


Every time someone bows and scrapes to The Authorities (in this case, mathowie and jessamyn, who do a fine job of keeping things running, I agree, of course), and says things like 'flag it and move on', I throw up a little into my mouth.

Well, if you're talking about MeTa threads, then I agree, however seeing people complain about threads in threads gets really annoying after a while.

Also "disemvoweling" is the stupidest thing ever. A more apropriate method would be a "click to show" hide, rather then rendering the thread illegible in perpetuity.

When people say "ignore it" we don't mean "don't read it" we mean "don't reply to it." Ignoring something dosn't mean you arn't aware of it, it means you don't expend any additional mental energy on it.
posted by delmoi at 9:17 PM on July 9, 2005


You'll have to do some monkeying to create your own killfile...

Nah, the linked killfile works perfectly...
posted by clevershark at 9:46 PM on July 9, 2005


I think I'm going to go for that killfile as well, slightly modified.
posted by sic at 4:28 AM on July 10, 2005


Grant more lenience to participants who are only part-time jerks, as long as they're valuable the rest of the time.

Why?

There are plenty of valuable people who aren't part-time jerks. Why allow jerks at all? How do they help discussion?

One big problem with discussion (online or off, but this always seems worse online) is that each of us has a different amount of liking or disliking of jerkiness.

Some people enjoy insult-wars and fights. (I've heard people say, "I broke up with my boyfriend, because he refused to fight with me.") Other people, like me, HATE them. I can't be in the same room as someone who is being nasty. If someone is nasty to me, my personal ethics tell me I DON'T have the right to be nasty back to them.

I'm not saying I'm right and the insult-likers are wrong, but it's very hard for the two of us to co-exist. And setting "my boyfriend won't fight with me" aside, I think that when we DO co-exist, I (and people like me) get the short end of the stick. The insults hurt me. But the fact that I don't insult doesn't seem to bother the insulters. In fact, they sometimes like it. I become a perfect target ("I can be a total jerk to him all I want and he won't fight back! Goodie!")
posted by grumblebee at 7:07 AM on July 10, 2005


There are plenty of valuable people who aren't part-time jerks. Why allow jerks at all? How do they help discussion?

Well, I think she means that those who have bowed down to her in the past might be allowed to get away with challenging her once or twice, but someone who comes in and has the temerity to disagree with her right off the bat is going to find their words mangled and left up as a trophy (much creepier than a regular deletion.) In the context of how she administers her own site, she's not necessarily talking about actual jerks at all.
posted by transona5 at 9:11 AM on July 10, 2005


I am completely opposed to killfiles (as well as most of the other scripts available at the link above), but this is too funny:

// The whole purpose of this script is to correct all uses of 'freind' to
// 'friend' in posts by jonmc on MetaFilter.

posted by gleuschk at 10:40 AM on July 10, 2005


I am completely opposed to worrying about people's minor spelling errors, but that is hilarious.
posted by languagehat at 11:41 AM on July 10, 2005


The real question is, why does he have a killfile and a spellcheck for the same person?
posted by darukaru at 1:29 PM on July 10, 2005


I'm somewhat proud and somewhat concerned that I'm on the sample killfile. Is a killfile just a way to create an artificial echo chamber of people you agree with and thereby avoid having to confront conflicting opinions and/or evidence?
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 9:36 AM on July 11, 2005


« Older a bit too farky?   |   Lumpy Kitty Followup Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments