22nd July 06:05
FAQ: ASAD Trolls--how they do it
LITTLE-KNOWN TROLLISH SECRETS
Many newsgroups like alt.support.attn-deficit become infested with a
particularly bothersome human-like creature that has come to be called the
While there are numerous sub-species of Troll, they all share the same root
characteristics and behavior traits. The nearly-canonical New Hacker's
Dictionary defines a Troll as follows:
Troll - /v.,n./
To utter a posting on Usenet designed to attract
predictable responses or flames. 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 Troll FAQ (yes, there is such a do***ent!) expands upon this
In Usenet usage, a "troll" is not a grumpy monster that
lives beneath a bridge accosting passers-by, but rather a
provocative posting to a newsgroup intended to produce a
large volume of frivolous responses.
The content of a "troll" posting generally falls into
several areas. It may consist of an apparently foolish
contradiction of common knowledge, a deliberately offensive
insult to the readers of a newsgroup, or a broad request
for trivial follow-up postings.
"Trolling" is a recreational activity, done primarily for the amu*****t of the
Troll. He (or she) receives the payoff for the posting when a thread of
(hopefully) outraged responses arises from the initial post.
The most effective response to an annoying troll is no response at all; with no
one striking the "bait," the Troll is apt to leave in search of a more
Unfortunately, Trolls occasionally post articles that *demand* a
response. Statements that malign another user or impugn his character, for
example, should not be allowed to stand unchallenged. Statements that are
overtly untrue or that convey patently false information should also be
Many proficient Trolls use DejaNews to scan for certain character
strings. When they find one or more of these attractive words, they may lurk in
the newsgroup for a time, often waiting for a posting from a particularly
vulnerable member. Finding their prey, they attack, frequently relying on a
cowardly blind-side approach.
Once the Troll has made his attack, he may never post again to that thread; his
"reward" comes from watching the continuation of the thread that he started.
There are some simple solutions to dealing with the more persistent Trolls.
First, wherever possible, avoid responding to the Troll's "bait." He is not
looking for conversation, nor does he have a point to make. He is looking to
amuse himself at someone else's expense.
If a Troll's post absolutely *demands* a response, avoid mentioning the Troll by
name; many Trolls will scan DejaNews for occurrences of their name. It is quite
permissible to refer to the Troll by other than his (or her) posted name or
Many Trolls use an identifiable style of writing; some may insert an unusual
character into the Subject: header (the double slash "//" has appeared
frequently). This identifies a thread as "his" to the Troll, no matter how long
The obvious (and simplest) solution to this last Trollish technique is simply to
edit the Subject: header to remove the TrollMark. Most news readers in use today
allow this to be done quite simply.
Usenet has always been a place to exchange ideas freely; the infamous Buxom
Vixen Vamp of the Internet has referred to it as "the world's longest ongoing
block party." That freedom of expression, however, brings with it all sorts of
pests and vermin like the Trolls. Handling them effectively should be as much a
part of every user's toolbox as his news reader.
(c)1997, Joe Parsons. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this article by
any mechanical or electronic means, provided that it is reproduced in its
entirety, and with no additions or alterations whatsoever.