3.16.2010

If A Troll Posts In The Woods And No One Is…

Inspired by a recent dust-up with an anonymous poster I dubbed “Jersey Troll” (a fine addition to my repertoire of online characters, beginning with Sea Donkey), I couldn’t resist doing a little research and seeing what the interwebs had to offer on the subject. I found this very succinct entry at Wikipedia, which defines “Troll (Internet)” as: “In Internet slang, 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.” While it goes on at length to examine etymology of the term, in all of the material I saw, none captured the essence as quickly and effectively as this, so I’m ready to accept that as an “According to Hoyle” explanation and move on.

There were quite a few psychoanalytical essays I uncovered postulating why certain personality types might be drawn to trolling and examining what the behavior has to offer them. While I find the socialization dynamics vis-à-vis brain development fascinating, I doubt anyone else reading would be as enamored of the detailed case studies of a “disembodied virtual epistemic community” as I was, so I’ll just skip that portion of the program.

I also found an interesting set of entries at flayme.com, which is primarily concerned with a few, albeit dated, guidelines for how to win flame wars, but did digress into a section specifically concerning trolly behavior, best summarized with a PSA-style post on “How Can Troll Posts Be Recognised?” It included several common hallmarks of troll posts, such as "No Imagination, Pedantic, False Identity, Cross-Posting, Off-Topic Posting, Repetition, Fascination/Boasting of IQ," and "Missing The Point," all with detailed descriptions and examples from reported real world encounters. For example, “Missing the Point” goes on to explain how trolls are rarely capable of answering a direct question, since they’re not primarily interested in conversation or an exchange of ideas, merely positing their attack and/or instigating a response. If asked to justify their “twaddle” (the writer is English, dig the "s" in recognise up there), they cannot, so they develop a fine ability to ignore, change topic, or deflect arguments.

Lastly, I found quite a few entertaining images attached to many of the entries concerning trolls and blogstalking. Some of them were artist interpretations of specific aspects of trolly behavior, some were photoshopped images with clever sayings, some became inspirational office posters, and some were actual pictures which had been co-opted, as they seemed to typify the behavior and general aesthetic one imagines for a prototypical internet troll. They all paint quite an unflattering picture in the process. They sure cracked me up, and I hope they, along with my file names, offer you some amusement as well. I now present the “best of” that I encountered, ranging from sort of the least offensive (oh, if all blogstalkers looked like that) to the more intense caricatures being captured the further down you scroll.


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