To Feed the Trolls, Or To Not Feed the Trolls…

Hug troll from Trollshop Norwegian Troll

Trolls are  posters who write outlandish comments to disrupt discussions on blogs.  See Wiki for a history of the term.

The abreviation DNFTT stands for “Do not feed the trolls.”  The rationale for this feeding avoidance is “the most effective way to discourage a troll is usually to ignore him or her, because responding tends to encourage trolls to continue disruptive posts.” (See the Wiki source above).

I have a different thought about this subject;  the DNFTT premise has an underlying premise that how trolls are responded to has an effect upon how they act.  I would counter that premise by contending that all trolls are who they are and were the same yesterday and will be the same tomorrow.  Trolls are nothing, if not predictable.

I believe it would be possible to organize a series of experiments that would test the hypothesis that trolls change or cease their posting if ignored.  My prediction is that they would not change or cease trolling.

Just think:  we could use internet trolls as lab rats for experiments.  They are just as plentiful as rats, and it is more difficult to get attached to them, so  destroying them at the end of the experiment would be less traumatic.  How convenient!

Your thoughts?

Iggy Donnelly


Filed under Humor, Psychology Ramblings..., Research, Science without political control

27 responses to “To Feed the Trolls, Or To Not Feed the Trolls…

  1. There are different kinds of trolls. They all aim to disrupt conversation but some are funny, some tend to be mean. I avoid the mean ones and have fun along with the funny ones.

  2. To clarify further, it is my assumption that the feeding analogy makes its predictions from Skinner’s operant behavior theory; the responses to flames are reinforcing to the flamer. Removing the reinforcing consequences will lead to a reduction in the trolling behavior. It would seem to me that trolling is intermittently (on a variable ratio – & not continuously) reinforced. These types of schedules are the most resistant to extinction (the ceasing of trolling).

    It is typical in extinction curves, to initially see an increase in a behavior that is targeted before it goes down.

    I really do think this could be experimentally evaluated. What would be another interesting dependent variable would be the views one received when trolling was at its peak versus when it was lower. I know what I would predict with respect to this.

    You know, I probably need more to do…

  3. fnord,
    You hit upon an important thing: the definition of a troll. That tends to vary widely and in the definitions there are the inherent assumptions that one knows the intentions of the said “troll” – which in fact is not always the case.

    Personally, I reserve the term “trolls” for people whom are what you call “mean”. Being funny and off topic is not necessarily trollish in my view.

  4. Will be getting off of this soap box soon… and I had planned to include this point in this post – the DNFTT response limits one’s ability to respond to comments and behavior that are just wrong. Maybe a subject for a different post…

    On the blog thatshallnotbenamed, a troll was posting and using an archaic term which meant an African American baby – it was clearly meant to inflame. I think to let things like that pass, is wrong.

    I get my inspirations in the oddest places…

  5. And, without doubt, the oddest people….

  6. The only troll (and maybe a different definition is apt here) we’ve had on this board — we ultimately banned. I would do that again (probably faster!) rather than allow our blog to be disrupted. That poster just wouldn’t stop, posted the same thoughts in different words with no greater success overandoverandover. He posted his opinion as fact while ignoring requests for documentation or validation. No matter how many times it was suggested we agree to disagree, there was no stopping and the poster was unwilling to be agreeable unless his opinion was accepted by all. There was a total lack of respect and no sensitivity for other people’s feelings and thoughts.

    In the world of adults, if a poster needs to say the thing repeatedly simply because they haven’t converted the other posters to their opinions, does this make them a troll or just boorish?

  7. 6176746f6c6c65

    I would say boorish.

  8. jammer5

    Oh, hell, when you’re bored . . . .

  9. 6 & fnord,
    The answer lies in knowing what the person’s intent was – it is possible that some people are dull enough that they think ‘if say this louder, I’ll be more convincing.’ What made the person you mention a troll was that he kept criticizing people for having different points of view, kept repeating the same things over and over. It seemed to me it would be impossible to think that his/her strategy was going to be effective any way. But as the old saying goes “make something idiot-proof, and someone will invent a better idiot.”

    Further, a woman whom I respect greatly from the University of Washington says: “Just because a patient with Borderline Personality Disorder makes you angry, it does not necessarily follow that they meant to make you angry.”

  10. A screening test is in order. And the shorter it can be, the better. Answer “yes or no” as to whether the following examples are trollish behavior.

    1. A poster calls another poster a name that was an archaic expression for African American babies. Several other posters respond that the original poster was a racist. The poster replies – “no” the word was a type of chess move…

    2. A poster who disagrees with you in their first reply distorts your nickname so that it could be thought of as a variety of oral sex.

    3. In the flow of a serious discussion, a poster posts a comment that is humorous but off topic.

    My scoring: 1 & 2 = yes
    3 = no

    What other factors should be considered?

  11. I agree with your scoring, mine would be the same.

    I don’t know about classifying as a troll, but in adult discussions one must offer all other posters respect no matter how different their opinions are.

    It is disrespectful to:

    1. call names

    2. suggest someone who doesn’t share your opinion is stupid or ill informed (even tho they may be)

    3. suggest that one opinion is superior to another

    4. judge a person’s religious beliefs or lack thereof

    5. suggest that every person who isn’t financially successful hasn’t met with your opinion of success due to lack of effort, laziness, or lack of character or personal responsibility

    6. to suggest that people can be defined narrowly or put into boxes that contain everything they are and think

    7. attempt to make an opinion a fact

    I am open to being taught the fallacy in any of my points. If done without using any of the methods in those points, I am open to why I should reconsider, look further, learn more.

    • I agree with these points. I am sure that I have failed to live up to these at times.

      I am pretty sure I know where and from whom these considerations came from.

  12. tosmarttobegop

    Sometimes I am left to wonder, is the troll saying something they do not actually believe or are they so delusional and ignorant that it is actually what they believe? Serious racists do actually believe what they say is the truth. I do know as outlandish he is Paul does believe what he said. I called out J.J. one day and he respond that he was just having fun and it was not what he actually believed.

    The disassociation between the internet person and the real life person is often the difference of night and day. They do not see what they say on the internet i.e. blog is associated with them as a person.
    If they do not in real life believe or have the opinion, then what ever they say on a blog is not them.
    I could say “I love drinking the blood of a virgin!”, now I have never drank blood little alone that of a virgin. So to me it means nothing yet to other it makes me the worst of monsters!

    Troll fire off their comments to gain the effect and some it really is what a friend refers to as
    “Edge Humor”. You say something that you truly believe of a person that is bad or insulting. But if that person objects or is offend then you say “Gee I was just kidding get a sense of humor will ya!”.
    But none the less it is meant by the person that said it.

  13. In the case of the poster calling another an “archaic expression for African American babies,” I have a question.

    Did this poster first do the research to determine that term was also a chess move and then use it so posters would react and he could pull out his prepared excuse?


    Did the poster use the term and then go find the excuse?

    I would call the poster a troll if the first scenario is true. He set it up, he planned it. But if the second scenario is true I would call the poster unable to accept responsibility and apologize for poor behavior.

  14. tosmarttobegop

    Its a junior high joke, “are you a Homo erectus?” most actually did fall for it and denied it.
    My own dad one day angered my sister-in-law that was more like a daughter to my family.
    She had a daughter who was born in wedlock and six at the time and a son who was born out of wedlock and was two at the time.

    After the daughter had counted to ten for dad, he turned and said “You know Tina counts but Patrick does not!”. Their mother was so angry she broke out in a screaming fit! Finally after Barb had settled down Dad smiled and asked Tina to count for him again, she did and dad turn to Patrick and asked him to count?
    He could not so dad said to Barb “see!”.

    Now Barb should have known better and understand dad’s sense of humor as she had been around him so much. Dad would have never judge a child by whether they was born in or out of wedlock.

    I had seen Regular use such misdirection’s sometimes he is playing the same joke as dad did.

  15. Bad Biker

    I have been guilty of semi-trollish behavior on occasion on the “other” blog, just to piss off the Cons.

    Sorry, it’s in my DNA.

    But most trolls do not use the Deer Hunter rule and go for endless shots.

    Me? Deer Hunter – one shot – just to make a point.

    As for the previously mentioned “ChessMasterBator” – well he has been in full – troll operation since Day One.

    Bait him – smack him down – but always realize that he is a clown.

    (The poetry is free.)

    Even thou he takes himself seriously.

  16. Hell, I say let em’ troll.
    Ban ’em when it becomes boring.
    Seems most are issue specific trolls.
    Of course some issues are as broad as politics.

  17. tosmarttobegop

    On occasion some of the most vile have been accused of being paid shills. That would explain some of the most vile and dumb posters. I had thought that no one could have been so dumb and not be paid for it!

  18. wicked

    Can’t we feed the trolls to the rats and see what happens?

  19. “Can’t we feed the trolls to the rats and see what happens?”

    Uh, ohh … I hear the PETA police knocking on Wicked’s door.

    Don’t answer it.

  20. “Did this poster first do the research to determine that term was also a chess move and then use it so posters would react and he could pull out his prepared excuse?


    “Did the poster use the term and then go find the excuse?”

    I would suspect the latter and have known him to make up crap out of whole cloth to cover his ass. But in truth, I don’t know. If he was worth the trouble, I guess, I’d find out… But to go to that trouble is what he is hoping for – this runs contrary to my hypothesis – I acknowledge…

  21. James is the purist form of troll I’ve ever known. And he is one very pathetic human, in case that wasn’t already obvious…

  22. Sign me up for this experiment. I love being extra nice to trolls and even inviting them to join in again. That usually gets them even angrier….. it’s so much fun to play with the mind of a dumb ass troll.

  23. willpenn,

    I’ve noticed you can attract some pretty obnoxious trolls which suggests to me you are doing something right. We had one, but yours are much more interesting and loathsome.

    Tell us your secret.

    • I guess it’s all about pushing the right buttons. Second Amendment stuff usually gets the real crazies out as well as Abortion issues and Separation of Church and State. If you put the right bait on your fishing pole you can usually bring in the big ones…

  24. Thanks, willpenn,

    Myself and the spouse will be going to Colorado at the end of the month to do some trout fishing. I learned recently, much to my chagrin, but not surprise, that Stacie (spouse) does not like cooking fish in CO. What to do??? Clean and Cook them? I guess I will.

    My wife, at the end of July will be going out to Alaska to see her sister and her sister’s significant other for a week. I will stay here and contemplate something important — hopefully…