Being one of the most commented blog in India (in technology space for sure), we receive loads of comments and I spend the first 30 minutes of my day cleaning the comments/deleting trolls [not including the spammy comments].
To be very candid, trolls takes a toll on one’s emotional well being – Jason Calcanis even stopped blogging because of the negative comments
One of the reasons I stopped blogging was because the dozen negative comments under every blog post I wrote started wearing me down. I’d write for an hour and the immediate reward was four people, under 12 different accounts, slamming me. Some were people I had fired, others were mentally unstable folks but, in many cases, they were normal people suffering from IAS. – his last blog post
IAS, i.e. Internet Asperger’s Syndrome
In this syndrome, the afflicted stops seeing the humanity in other people. They view individuals as objects, not individuals. The focus on repetitive behaviors–checking email, blogging, twittering –combines with an inability to feel empathy and connect with people.
The dual nature of Asperger’s, from my understanding, is that it makes the individual focused on very specific behaviors–obsessively so in many cases–while decreasing their capacity for basic empathy and communication. It’s almost as if you trade off intensity in one area for common decency and communications in another area–not that the person has a choice. [Jason’s blog]
Essentially, trollers look at bloggers as an object of attack, and given the anonymity of Internet, they firmly believe that they can get away with anything, bring everybody down.
So How do I Handle Troll?
When I started Pluggd.in, I used to get really worked-up with these negative comments (I have always believed that Bloggers should not moderate comments). As time went by, I wore a thick skin. But that doesn’t help sometimes – especially when trolls come from some of the respected people in the Industry.
And some of these guys use the anonymity of comments to say things that they can’t say otherwise (given their official badge).
So first thing you need to decide as a blogger is defining what’s troll for you.
An anonymous comment that makes a great point? Or an anonymous comment that takes a personal shot at others?
While the definition looks clear, it ain’t so clear when it comes to marking a comment as troll. And that’s where it is important to follow a few basic steps in order to handle the troll.
First things first, agree to disagree. One of the things I love about Pi readers is their immense knowledge/insights they bring to the table – I tend to engage with them offline, send emails, ask them to submit articles etc – and all of that starts with the comments that they leave at the site.
A troller is not the guy who disagrees with you. A troll is not the guy who questions you.
To me, this is the most important characteristics of great bloggers, but at the same time it’s also important to understand that if somebody is hiding in the garb of anonymity and is giving you a lot of free gyaan/feedback – do acknowledge the point made (by the anon coward) and move on (follow the DNFTT principle, described below).
Here is wikipedia’s definition of troll [notable points highlighted]
a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.
Provoking other users and disrupting normal on-topic discussion – that’s the best way to describe trollers.
Let’s take a look at how you can handle these trollers.
DNFTT, Do not Feed The Trolls is one of the most valuable advice that anybody can ever give you when it comes to handling troll.
Basically, the best way to handle trolls is to simply ignore them. The more you answer them, the more they will enjoy taking a shot at you/post author. Do not dwell upon the comment too much – take it as just another incident and move on. Trollers will question your knowledge/ethics (yeah!) etc and use the anonymous route to ‘hurt you/the author’ in the most possible manner.
Ignore. And Move On. Over time, you need to wear a thick skin and appear a little bit unperturbed with trolls. Practice for few days and you will get habituated to this!
Define a Policy
We have defined a very simple commenting policy, i.e. we will publish troller’s details (email id used, IP address etc) once the troller crosses the ‘thin’ line [wanna troll to ask what is the definition of thin line?].
This week, we have also implemented a new policy – i.e. from 9 PM to 8 AM, only registered users can comment on the site. The idea behind this is simple, i.e. to avoid political/religious bashing that we see on some of the posts (like Indo-pak hackers) and most of these happens late evening. Am sincerely hoping that I will have more pleasant Good Mornings than what I’ve had for the last 2 years or so.
Not that every blog has to define similar policies, but if you care about the good guys; i.e. the readers who add tremendous value to a blog post with their insights, you have to take care of the bad ones as well.
Not that people are bad, but anonymity gives them a notional freedom of speech (or speech for hatred), so give them sufficient warning. Most of the times, DFTT principle will work. But in case, it doesn’t, warn them of the policy.
“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi.
Your success can frustrate trollers to death. Especially in India, where the general mentality of ‘let’s bring everybody down’ is so prevalent, it’s important that you focus on your goals. Nothing more will piss off people than your success. So just do it.
For obvious reasons, I am not covering plugins that you can use to control trolls (like voting of comments etc), as they are mostly about the quality of the comment and not about the intent.
I sincerely hope this helps. Please share some of your learnings/experience with trollers.
[img credit: Dunechaser, via Flickr]