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Perennial Favorites: How to Starve a Troll

Your blog is your space, and you get to define what behavior is acceptable — and not acceptable. This great advice from in-house Miss Manners Elizabeth is worth a second read.

troll

Image via Flickr user christoph.grothaus

Your blog is your space, and you get to define what behavior is acceptable — and not acceptable. This great advice from our in-house Miss Manners, Elizabeth Urello, is worth a second read.

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. Thanks for this educational article. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a troll. This was very informative. I didn’t know we could regulate the comments section of our blogs, either. I learned a lot.

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  2. I have heard about Trolls on the world wide web and that’s why I have set my blog up so that any comments made are emailed to me first for moderation. OK, I can have a large amount of comments to go through, but it’s well worth it, than having some nasty troll put a horrible comment or even add spam to your post. So, if they come knocking at my door, then I’m happy to say there is no answer. If they can’t get in, then they will move on to the next blog.

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  3. There is no such thing as a troll. It is a product of delusion, the unwillingness to deal with people and their different and, to you, problematic opinions or twisted ways of thinking, or not thinking. To conceptualize it and call it by an invalidatiing name of mythological origin is just plain stupid and unworthy.

    This Scandinavian troll is not the only meaning of trolling on the net. Many people also use it in the sense of “fishing by trolling”, meaning that someone more or less indescriminately draws a bait on a hook trough a discussion, with the intention of yanking chains.

    In any event, I think it important to respect people and not reduce them to something invalid by naming them troll.

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  4. Speaking about Trolls…..Well I’m new and haven’t blogged so much,probably that’s why I haven’t come under their RADAR…lol
    But on a serious note,I feel these Trolls suffer from some kind of neurological disorder which they are unaware of; and since they are in a confused state of mind it makes them feel low and below… So maybe this in turn makes them end up doing crazy and nasty stuff. Its like,how can you do something more intellectual than me. Sounds like the “J” word to me…..

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  5. I did a ‘Gandalf’; i cracked open a huge rock and the morning sunlight turned it into stone 😀

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  6. Just had a troll tell me how stupid a blog post was I wrote….a blog post I wrote two years ago. I barely remember writing the post and it was only a brief post written to offer kudos to someone. I (barely) resisted responding and simply deleted the comment.

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  7. Thanks for this interesting post! When I started my blog, I expected to have lots of problems with trolls, but actually it’s quite the opposite: For almost 1500 visits, I got only two(!) comments, very polite and positive. Actually I have my own anti-troll strategy: I posted on some open forums telling about my blog. People who have something negative to say, post their hateful comments only Under my forum message, not on my blog. They are discouraged by the fact that I must check all comments before approval. Legally, I have to do so, as my blog tells anonymously the true story of my court case against two sexual molestors. In this case, I’m not supposed to publish any detail (names of people, places etc), that might make possible any identfication in real life. That’s why I’m happy WP allowes the moderation of comments. That was even the main reason I chose WP!

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  8. In other words, use company manners! When I was young I was taught if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. What’s sad to me it the fact that anyone is really that unhappy that they have to “leak” out their negativity on others. The way you treat others is definitely the way you feel about yourself.

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