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troll

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For as long as there have been blogs, there have been trolls. A troll is a commenter who hangs around your blog for the sheer purpose of annoying and goading you and your other readers.

Trolling is quite different from merely being critical. Obviously, not all of your readers are going to agree with you about everything, but a troll’s comments will rarely have anything to do with the topic at hand. For example, say you review a certain book you like. Someone might comment that she thinks it is an overrated work and doesn’t understand why anyone likes it. That’s not trolling. Even a comment as abrupt as “I’ve always hated that book” isn’t trolling, because, while it’s not particularly interesting, it’s at least a response to what you’ve written.

A troll, on other hand, is not actually trying to express anything. Rather, a troll is seeking to provoke a reaction from you or your other readers.

A troll might comment that she thinks books are stupid altogether and anyone who reads probably hates babies and puppies. She might comment that you yourself are a moron and it’s amazing anyone reads your blog at all. She might even comment in this way on all of your posts, day after day. Whether a troll’s comments are abusive or whether they are just irrelevant and annoying, they derail the conversation that you are trying to start. They can even intimidate other readers from participating in your comment thread.

For these reasons, it’s best to simply delete comments by trolls. Sometimes it might be tempting to get into an argument with one, but you will find that any response, no matter how shaming, will merely encourage the troll. Hence the expression “don’t feed the troll.”

Sometimes disagreements between regular readers can turn into trolling. For example, say that Susan is a vegetarian who often comments on your recipe site. Say that Bob is another commenter, and in one comment thread, he and Susan get into an argument about the morality of eating meat. While this is not trolling, if Bob continues to pop up in the comments of every post after that to try to pick a fight with Susan about vegetarianism, then he’s trolling. Ultimately, it’s your blog, so it’s up to you to decide when a particular commenter has become a bully.

You have complete control over your comments here at WordPress.com. You can set your Discussion Settings so that every comment users submit must be emailed to you for moderation before appearing on your blog. If you’d like to be more lenient than that, while still exerting some control, you can choose that a comment author must have a previously approved comment; otherwise, the comment will be sent to you for moderation.

What if you do not want to have to moderate all of your comments yourself, but you’ve noticed that your commenters seem to get into a heated argument every time someone brings up football? You can add the term “football” to your comment moderation queue. Then, every time a comment is submitted with “football” anywhere in it, you’ll have to approve it before it appears on your site.

If you then decide that you’re so sick of the football arguments, you don’t even want to see them at all anymore, you can add “football” to your comment blacklist. Then, any comment with that term in it will be marked as spam. Be careful with the blacklist, though–it matches inside words, so any comment with “foot” or “ball” in it will likewise be spammed.

You can even edit your readers’ comments themselves, for grammar and punctuation, or to remove profanity if you have a G-rated blog. Be careful not to misrepresent your readers, though. If you get creative with editing their comments, you will lose their trust and probably their readership.

While you shouldn’t put up with abusive behavior from your commenters, be careful not to go too far in the other direction, either. If your commenters suspect that you never allow comments that disagree with your point of view or criticize your posts in any way, they might become less interested in engaging on your blog. Remember, the goal is always to keep the discussion going!

Have you ever had a problem with a troll? How did you handle it?

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  1. My blog, LifeInLorain is only 1 year old, so I haven’t yet run into any trolls. Thanks for the advice though, and I will keep it in mind.

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  2. I recommend adding a regular troll to your spam list so that you don’t even need to bother with reading the inflammatory comment. It makes the process that much smoother.

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  3. Excellent tips. In the early stages of my blog, I had some troll comments. But I believe they were from someone trying to get me to respond to spam. I decided to filter all comments to prevent spam. My commenters are very civilized – thank heavens. I’ve seen more trolling on FB and don’t join in on that.

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  4. If members of any online community condone the trollish behavior of individual bad actors it will slowly become more acceptable and commonplace, simply because itโ€™s being tolerated. And if bloggers are not willing to act to prevent troll postings on their blogs, then a single negatively focused and manipulative member can create bad will that will have a lasting effect in any online community. More to the p[point is that one factor in page ranking of any blog is the amount of spam and troll comments that are approved and posted on it.

    I consider my blogs to be like my home and my role to be one as a hostess. Consequently, I do not approve any comments that are in conflict with what I would allow to take place in my own home. I do post differeing points of view but I don’t post any personal attacks and/or comments full of obscenity. If anyone were to cross those lines in my home they would be shown the door and the same goes for trolls and my blogs.

    Some bloggers fear that if they restrict commenters, theyโ€™ll lose readership. Well, I blog for pleasure and I enjoy constructive dialog. My blog is not a stage for bad actors. I prefer to take the risk of losing traffic flow by starving trolls to preserve as safe and comfortable environment on my blogs for those who can and will participate in intelligent conversation.

    My advice is that once you have set up your blog and published a couple of dozen posts itโ€™s time to develop your own comment policy and publish it. Sooner or later you will get a troll comment and itโ€™s best to have a comment policy in place to deal with it..

    It’s my opinion that comment blacklisting ought to be avoided. ISPs have been placing hundreds of us in the same IP block to save money for over a decade now. That means the result of blacklisting to send the stream of comments submitted by a single troll to the spam filter can be blocking many legitimate people who are submitting meaningful comments.

    Though your have emphasized “itโ€™s best to simply delete comments by trolls” it’s my experience that many new bloggers are not marking troll comments as Trash. They are marking both troll comments and even comments that simply express a different point of view as spam. That corrupts the learning process of the Akismet spam filter and that’s why when answering support forums questions I emphasize marking only spam as spam. And, it’s precisely why I like your concluding paragraph.

    It’s important for every blogger to recognize that your blog is not YOU. No commenter can connect with your inner self and trigger you emotionally, unless you give them permission to so. Donโ€™t open that inner door and give your power away. Take responsibility, develop a comment policy and either post the comment and refute the contents, or better still, mark it as Trash and blog on.

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  5. I used to get a LOT of trolls here in Oman as I was one of the first openly Christian bloggers in the blogosphere here…nice to see the hate mail has gone down over the years! ๐Ÿ™‚ Great advice on not feeding the trolls. I just delete comments when I sense “they’re off” or when they’re obviously trying to get me involved in some ridiculous exchange.

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  6. The problem with identifying trolls is that non-trolls are sometimes perceived as trolls – usually when the commenter disagrees with blogger. In reverse, some trolls are sneaky and suck you into their world before you realize that you have been had.

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  7. Trolls are just a part of any internet site that has a comment section. They’re an annoyance, sure, but, can also be amusing in that “I can’t believe anyone is really that dumb” sort of way.

    Mostly, I’m annoyed by all these new Troll Blogs that have started appearing all over WiordPress. They don’t leave mean comments, but they like and follow you, in an attempt to get you to visit their blog, where you’re supposed to click on ads and learn how to make money blogging.

    Comment trolls I can deal with. All these stupid new SLOGS (spam that looks like blogs) is what’s truly the annoyance — especially since you can’t remove them from your list of followers.

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      1. Well, the problem is that you can only report certain blogs, some, when you try to report them as Spam say they are hosted as outside of the free blogs, and cannot be reported justlats.com for example, is a get rich blogging spam, but, your process doesn’t allow for it to be reported. I’ve gotten about 10 or 12 follows from these types of blogs in the past month, and there seems to be nothing that can be done about them

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      2. Are you saying when someone ‘follows’ you or ‘likes’ a blog and you find out they are promoting their business….that it should be reported? I have had quite a few of those….Diane

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      3. Hi Diane – if their blog is a WordPress.com blog that appears to be against our terms of service, such as a spam blog, then you can report that blog.

        On the other hand, if it’s a legitimate blogger who is just being annoyingly self-promotional, you should just delete their comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. I had an issue with this recently and put the commenter’s name and IP address in my moderation queue. They changed their name and IP address, but as this made them a ‘first time’ commenter they were automatically moderated next time they commented (excellent job WP!). Then somehow they went through all my posts for the past 6 months and gave me a one star rating (about 20 times for each post) – so I removed the star rating. I won’t post their comments because I don’t want to ‘feed’ them. I’m hoping they’ve gone now, but who knows (they’re pretty persistent) …

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  9. I had what I would consider one troll and when she made a decision to question an aspect of my faith and then one of my commenters’ also… I did engage a couple of times to try to counteract her words but after her going on and on and even confusing some of my other followers I told her that I would not speak any further and deleted all comments. Fortunately she did not make any further comments on my blog but did on my one other commenters’..Felt like it was stalking…actually. But since she eventually left the other blogger’s site …all seemed to quiet down …I never know of course if she still reads but as long as she doesn’t comment there is no issue….Diane

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  10. I think it helps not to have a twitter account while connected to your site. Also, I have had other bloggers bad mouth me and be critical to get me not to post on a site called Yeah Write. I found it very petty and soon left the site due to its bulling and favoritism… then the trolling ended. Good article. Thank You !!

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  11. My blog is six months old and I’ve yet to experience trolls. Could be because of my content – creative writing is the main focus – but I really enjoy it. I fixed my settings so I approve every comment, I like to know exactly what is being said on something I post. I’ve bookmarked this article for potential future reference. Good article, thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. It’s also an advantage. Making literal errors or double posting makes the commenter look stupid. I’ve had a number of people ask me to edit their comments, and as a rule, I tend to do it if there is something obviously wrong in spelling or meaning.

      I wouldn’t dream of changing their meaning – what’s the point? – but I’m happy to tidy posts for people who ask, and if they ask once, and I see a glaring error on a subsequent post, I change it. Nobody likes to look stupid but it is easy to make a simple and very silly spelling error.

      I’ve also deleted comments at peoples’ request without question. Overall I think it is a good feature used responsibly.

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  12. I most definitely had a troll attack me on one of my blogs. She was so vicious it was amazing. She also threatened me with a lawsuit if I didn’t stop writing my blog! (I said that her horse was so unmanageable that she was going to hurt someone (again.).That’s all it took to make her snap, even though I was only writing the truth). I’d made the mistake of using her horse’s registered name. I always change the names of humans in my blogs, but I’d forgotten about changing the horse’s name.
    Rather than fight her, and I sure can’t afford a lawyer, I closed down the blog. I’m still writing, but I changed my screen name, created an entirely new blog, and also went over to Google and created a blog with the registered name and the barn name of her horse. That’s how she’d tracked me down in the first place, as I’d never told her I had a blog. Now if she types them into Google, she gets an empty blog.

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  13. My I add that I consider a person who “likes” a post but who clearly isn’t saying much of anything constructive on their blog, I do tend to consider them as a troll.

    I haven’t written stuff to cause strong opposition, inappropriate comments. But then, if I’ve been pretty ruthless of the line between spam and trolling: I just delete.

    I realize some people like writing on controversial topics which I could take upon in detail but blogging for me needs to be enjoyable, not an energy/psychic sucker. I already spend happily effort and time, in composing my posts and hunting down my photos.

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    1. I would like to delete it….but they reblog to their wordpress blog ….still kinda new to blogging…is there a way to delete my post from another blog after it has been reposted?

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      1. Hiya, you own the text, idea and story of your blog, it is copyrighted to you as you created it, all you have to do is ask for you portion to be removed, they have to do it.

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