Troll talk…

July 20, 2009

(Part 1 of I’m not sure how many.)

This cracked meh up...

This cracked meh up...

The interesting thing about the idea of Internet Trolls is that there are about as many variants of type as there are types of people who use the Internet.

That is to say that the possibilities to see new and bizarre types of “troll behavior” are infinite.

The etymology of the term “Troll” as we know it today in this context comes from the phrase “trolling for suckers.”  It’s a fishing term.  It seems strange and humorous to me, in some respect, that the idea of someone who sits behind their computer “trolling” the Internet (a very passive activity, IMHO) comes from an active one that occurs nowhere near a computer.  Well, unless you count a depth finder… (I don’t.)

The phrase was popularized in the 90s on alt.folklore.urban a Usenet group in the contextual phraseology “trolling for newbies.”

It pretty much means what it seems to mean.  That “old skool” users of the group would make posts and comments “casting” out “bait” for new users (newbies, newbs, n00bs) to react to.

The purpose?  To be funny, to amuse one’s self and friends, to identify and isolate new users who are not part of the “in crowd.”  Typical high school behavior… which makes sense because that’s where the typical troll’s mind resides when participating in such behavior (even if they are a well adjusted and intelligent member of society offline) in the realm of high school shenanigans.

It’s interesting to me that the Japanese use the word “arashi,” which means “laying to waste,” to refer to Internet Trolls.

Behavior that defines the “Troll” tends to fall into three categories:

  • Posting off topic comments that are devised to draw attention from the purpose of the thread.
  • Posting off topic comments that are devised to incite angry or concerned reactions in a thread.
  • Responding to someone posting in an aggressive or controversial way in a thread intended to start a fight.

Consider “thread” to be whatever you need it to be: comment section on a blog, talk thread, chatroom log, whatevs…

While there are as many types of trolls as there are types of people online – for the purpose of this installment of the “Troll Talk” article we can squish them all together into two types of trolls:

  1. Trolls who KNOW they are trolling and expect the violent reactions they get when posting.
  2. Trolls who DON’T KNOW they are trolling and are very confused when the community they’re participating in responds in a negative way to what they’re saying.

The first type of troll is more nefarious than the second, of course.  People who enter an online community with the sole purpose of stirring the pot and flinging shit to cause dramz are people who probably have one of the following characteristics to their personality:

  • They are highly intelligent and bored with their lives.
  • They are moderately to highly intelligent and were picked on as children/teens/young adults.
  • They are moderately to highly intelligent and don’t get a lot of attention IRL so they thrive on negative attention they garner online.

Then there is this:

  • They are just a bad motherfucker who doesn’t have good intentions for the community they are trolling.

The second type of troll, however, is more or less clueless and more than likely someone who doesn’t really interact online very often – so they do not know ‘Net etiquette.

The only commonality between the two types of Trolls I’ve described is that they are both seeking attention.

The best thing to do, in any case, when one encounters a Troll, is to ignore them.  Because if you ignore them, they tend to fade away into the woodwork.  Only when you provide response does the Troll continue to provide bait.  (Because you’ve been “hooked” — get it?  Fishing reference.)

Though, if you are really interested in observing and appreciating Internet dynamics where Trolls are concerned, you can identify what type of Troll you’re dealing with in a pretty easy way:

-If the person refers to you as a “sockpuppet” (ie: person they’re controlling/manipulating) you are dealing with a Troll who knows they’re trolling.  Aware Troll.

-If no matter what you say the person is always able to manipulate your response and turn it around to make you look like an asshole you’re dealing with a Troll who knows they’re trolling.  Aware Troll.

-If the person ever says “PWND” to you – they know they’re trolling.  Aware Troll.

Conversely:

-If the person participates in really obvious bad ‘Nettiquet – like typing in all CAPS ALL THE TIME – you’ve got an Unaware Troll.

-If the person asks stupid questions that they should be able to figure out by themselves -like, “what’s a n00b?” – probably someone new to the ‘Net and unaware of they are being perceived as a Troll.  Unaware Troll.

-If the person freaks out when someone flames them for posting crap – person who doesn’t understand what is okay and isn’t okay, Unaware Troll.

BUT BE CAREFUL IN THAT ASSESSMENT: Because Trolls are tricky motherfuckers and someone with nefarious intentions to cause dramz can very easily emulate the signifyors of an “Unaware Troll.”

Example:

Yelp Talk thread about some Yelp bullshit where *points at crotch* and other Yelpisms are used.  Someone brings up DYL (stands for “Destroy Your Liver.”)

Old Yelper trolling for N00bs: What’s DYL?

New Yelper who doesn’t know Old Yelper is trolling: Oh that’s Destroy Your Liver, it’s a happy hour every Friday… blah, blah, blah…

Old Yelper sends PM to all Old Yelp Friends: HAHAHAHAAAA — I TOTALLY PWND THAT SOCKPUPPET NOOB!

Isn’t Old Yelper funny?

Basically an Aware Troll is very capable of suckering new users who have good intentions into thinking that they – the Aware Troll – is a n00b who needs schooling on the ins and outs of the board (or chatroom, or MMORPG, or VW… whatevs.)

Most of the time that kind of behavior stops pretty quickly because another user who isn’t a troll will bust them on the behavior:

Old Yelper Who Isn’t Amused: Hey New Yelper, don’t fall for it – Old Yelper’s been on Talk since 2005 – he’s just fucking with you, he totally knows what DYL is – he’s usually passed out under at table at it.

New Yelper: D’OH! M’kay – thanks!

Old Yelper: Damn, busted!

One could say that the lesson learned from Trolls of any kind is one should never attempt to be sincere or nice online… But, that just makes me feel a little too jaded to say and stand behind.  But, teh innerwebs, they IZ a sarcastic place…

Another thing to remember: Trolls tend to always think that they are smarter than YOU are.  This may or may not be true; but, if you try to prove that it’s false you will never win or will die of old age trying to prove your point… Trolls have an amazing capacity for volume.  They can out talk and out post anyone.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Teh Innerwebz they iz Serious Bizzness! (Or: There is someone, somewhere on the Internet who is WRONG right now!)

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