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Last updated 23 May 2003 (Dead links removed) - Bookmark this page and check for updates!

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Part One: Introduction

Part Two: What is a Troll?

Part Three: Are there different sorts of Trolls?

Part Four: Why don't people like Trolls? Surely they're just having fun!

Part Five: How do people respond to Trolls?

Part Six: What is a good way to deal with a Troll?

Part Seven: What about other types of Trolls?

Part Eight: Will This Advice Get Rid of All Trolls?

Part Nine: Who is NOT a Troll?

Part Ten: About this site

Part Eleven: Anti-Troll Links

Part Twelve: Example of Troll Threads (Links to a new page)

  1. Introduction

    'Anyone can speak Troll,' said Fred dismissively, 'all you have to do is point and grunt.'
    "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" - J.K. Rowling (2000)

    This page is a step by step guide to handling a Troll on Usenet, or any other discussion forum on the Internet. Or, more precisely, it is a step by step guide to beating a Troll at their own game.

    There are too many Trolls that infest Newsgroups and discussion forums - this site gives you some ideas about how to stop their antics permanently.

    Before we begin, though, understand this: the best way to deal with a Troll is to ignore them entirely. They are not worth your time, however you may feel about their comments.

    However, this site recognises that sometimes you may be unwittingly drawn into a 'conversation' with them. This site will help you to deal with that situation.

    "How To Handle A Troll" is updated on a semi-regular basis. You might like to visit this page again to learn new tactics against the Trolls. Similarly, you might like to let your friends know about the site. After you have finished reading, please link to this guide from your website.

    Don't let anyone get destroyed by the Trolls!

  2. What is a Troll?
    The best way to know what a Troll is, is to see what they do. The following link is a humourous look at how to Troll, even encouraging people to take up the habit. Note how the author himself distinguishes between the Trolls who are just trying to gain attention, or are trying to create havoc.

    Yet the author has made a fatal flaw: He fails to see that ALL Trolls crave attention. That is the sole reason they exist - whether or not they want to feel that they have achieved something (even if it is destruction) or to be recognised for doing something deviant, they want just a little attention in their direction.

    Remember: Without attention, Trolls are nothing. They have no audience, and no victim. To read the website, click here. NOTE: The previous website has been removed. I will try to find a replacement site that demonstrates Troll mentality, but until then, you'll have to make do with my explanations, sorry!

    I would encourage you to read the whole page. We'll come back to it later, but it is well worth it anyway.

    The mentality of a Troll is obvious - he wants a cheap laugh, and that is all. The offense that may be caused is of no concern to him, as are any other ramifications of his actions.

    This Usenet post describes what many people consider to be trolls. There are hundreds of such definitions across the 'net, on various different websites (including this one, and many that are linked on this site). Ultimately, these many definitions of trolls, all vary slightly, but they all sum up to this:-

    Trolls are a nuisance. They purposefully cause annoyance to other users, but their approach can, and does, vary. Some trolls are obvious, some are not. This website attempts to show you some of the different approaches that trolls take - to keep you, as an Internet user, prepared.

  3. Are there different sorts of Trolls?
    Yes. There are several types of Trolls, and each is discussed on in more depth later in this site. They are: The Bored's, The Liars, The Confrontationalists and The Controversials

    Many Trolls just want to be a nuisance. They're kids who aren't mature enough to have a sensible conversation. These Trolls fall under The Bored's category, but that does not necessarily mean that all Trolls are children. Many "mature" adults find enjoyment in Trolling groups.

    But there are other trolls who set out to cause havoc. This may include posing as a regular poster in the group (then acting in a way to deflame that person's good name). Or it may be to draw members of the group into an argument.

    You can read about that sort of behaviour here. Here, a Troll has managed to draw people into an off-topic discussion that has resulted in an innocent poster losing his ISP access. This is all part of the entertainment for the Troll.

    NOTE: The previous website has been removed. I will try to find a replacement site that demonstrates Troll mentality, but until then, you'll have to make do with my explanations, sorry!

  4. Why don't people like Trolls? Surely they're just having fun!
    Trolls are a nuisance, as they frequently set out to antagonise other people who post in the same forum. For example, take the following post by "Drew" in the Usenet foum


    By the way, you can Click Here to see the message on Google

    The above message is a prime example of a Bored Troll post. It is almost unreadable, atrocious grammar, and blatantly insults the show that the newsgroup focuses upon. The Troll is probably a bored teenager.

    STNG is supposed to read ST:TNG (or, Star Trek:The Next Generation). The bad spelling is a part of the Troll - attempting to provoke insults from the regulars about his spelling.

    Responses such as "You're an idiot. You can't even spell." is what the Troll is hoping for. This way, he can draw you into a prolonged argument about who is the bigger idiot. Sensible ways to respond (if you have to at all) are discussed below. Trolls who throw insults across the 'net are Confrontationalists and relish seeing any response that indicates the respondee is wound up, or aggravated by their Trolling.

    It is fair to assume that people who regularly post to an Enterprise newsgroup will be fans of the show. By saying that the show is not up to par, "Drew" is hoping for other posters to get angry with him, degrading themselves to the mentality of schoolchildren in the process.

    Trolls are the Usenet equivalent of the School bully. They don't have to be that big, hard, or clever to throw their weight around - but they do enjoy watching the over reactions of the other posters.

    Their messages are poorly laid out - usually on purpose, with bad grammar, spelling, and, more often than not, written entirely in caps.

    Some Trolls can be entertaining, but that may not be their intention, nor may that be the intention of any troll.

    The Troll Sukami Master infests the newsgroup (among others), and after one post titled "Trollness", OnsenMark followed up with... (click here for google)

    serj_tankian, you aren't. Hell, even the freakin' *Boinger* is more entertaining than you, and s/he misspells every single word!

    But Sukami Master isn't trying to entertain the group. He (it is usually a he) is trying to entertain himself. Perhaps this highlights just how shallow Trolls really are. So, in response to the question (finally), yes, trolls are just having fun, but at the expense of every one else in the group.

    Trolls will happily do the exact opposite of what you want them to do. Sukami Master might be accused of being a "boring" troll, but he gains a reaction every time, because he does not act how people expect a troll to act.

  5. How do people respond to Trolls?
    Usually the most obvious way - they get offended.

    "Drew"'s post was not as offensive as many you may have come across. Others pick on individuals - either by name calling, personal insults, or by posing as that person to degrade their character.

    Naturally, people don't like this! Who would?

    And so, the general result is a range of insults flung across the Internet which does nothing but antagonise the regulars on the board, and entertain the Troll.

  6. What is a good way to deal with a Troll?
    It depends upon the Troll - If you realise that a Troll is just trying to wind you up, or offend you, Be Calm. Don't rise to them.

    Let's take the example of "Drew" again. How would you react? These are three responses to "Drew"...

    yeah right.

    do you trolls really thing your lies are even SEMI BELIEVEABLE????

    enterprise has a guaranteed 6 years. ratings might not be great, but what's UPN going to replace it with? the Hughleys?

    This is possibly not the worst way to respond - but it does show the Troll that you have been wound up by their post. There is a certain amount of gratification for him in that!

    Quoting your side of the argument to him will not help. Even quoting facts will not help. Across the great Internet divide, facts may as well be nonsense figures.

    By "SHOUTING" you are expressing your anger, which to him is humourous. He is safe in his room, and so such agression means nothing to him.

    ST:TNG was a first run syndication show. Ratings work different for syndicated shows, than network shows. High ratings for a syndicated show could be considered low for a network show. Believe me when I say that there will be a season 2 of Enterprise, and I imagine a season 7.

    Again, quoting facts will do nothing, except possibly force an argument that he will relish in, and, whether or not you win intellectually, he will draw out until you couldn't stand it any longer through mis-quotes (of your posts), lies, and perjorative comments.

    Facts and arguments are a waste of time.

    You may have a valid point about the low ratings, in comparison to some shows that have had a few more seasons to be developed. ST-TNG definately was a very popular show a few seasons into its run!

    However, could you not use capslock all the time, as it can be rather difficult to read, and to some, it can seem like you are shouting.

    Start with a compliment! As shown above, accept that they may well have a valid argument, and therefore have a necessary place within the forum.

    Keep Calm! Don't let your anger show through.

    Compliment them before any criticism - and keep that criticism to a minimum. They don't how to react. Before long, they may find themselves drawn into sensible conversations with the group.

    If possible, make any criticism sound like a criticism of yourself, not them. Here, the responder has made the caps problem seem like the readers fault, rather than the posters.

  7. What about other types of Trolls?
    Some Trolls will pose as regular members of a forum - either by pretending to be someone else, or by joining in some conversations, letting their subversiveness slip through very slowly.

    For example, this Troll started by joining in some conversations on the alt.movies.spielberg group. "Togetherinparis" slowly began to lie, about progressively implausible situations, until eventually most regular posters left the group. Now, several years on, the Troll appears to be the only person left in the group - still proclaiming that he came up with the ideas for Minority Report, The Force (as in Star Wars) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

    How is the best way to deal with this? It may be difficult to recognise his lies to begin with, and then it is easy to fall into the trap of outright believing him.

    As soon as you recognise a Liar, don't try to get him to prove his facts - it's impossible across Usenet, and he knows this.

    You may like to try some of the above tactics - try to draw him into a sensible conversation, without dropping to his level.

    But, ultimately, there can be only one way to deal with him: Killfile him. Do not let yourself be seduced into having an argument over the validity of his "facts".

    Other Trolls will try to draw you into a futile argument by a variety of means, but usually by saying something controversial.

    A Trolls message may be as simple as "Prove that God does not exist" that has been crossposted to a range of religious newsgroups. A Troll is usually idnetifable, as he will often refuse to take a stance on either side - at one time arguing that God exists, and another that He doesn't.

    These Trolls are Controversials.

    A Trolls message will often be crossposted to one or more newsgroups that have nothing to do with the subject. By clicking here you can read a Troll thread that spanned for more than four hundred messages - just because it was a controversial subject, and in spite of the fact that the subject had nothing to do with one of the forums in which it was posted.

    Trolls revel in their threads lasting such a long time - the longer a thread is, the more legitimate users have been sucked into their little game.

    All Trolls, Controversials, Liars, Boreds and Confrontationalists use "Logical Fallacies" - in other words, they lie, change their minds, or otherwise simply claim any perspective other than the concensus.

    Logical Fallacies can be a legitimate form of discussion in many instances. But Trolls can use this to their advantage, suggesting that fallacies arise in their "opponents" arguments, where, in truth, those fallacies may, or may not exist.

    For example, in the following theoretical trollish encounter, the USER follows some of the above steps when approaching the troll...

    In Newsgroup alt.movies.spielberg ... TROLL: SPIELBERG'S FILMS SUC!

    USER: Do you think so? I have always felt that the critique of a film-maker lies with their audience. Personally, I quite enjoy Spielbergs films, however it is good to see an opinion other than a positive one addressed.

    At this point, it is unlikely that the Troll would respond - he has made his statement, and enough people may have argued against him that he is wrong, causing havoc in the group, that his work has already been done for him. We will presume, however, that the troll wishes to create a prolonged thread about Mr. Spielbergs work.

    TROLL: You know that Spielbergs films suck! If one meber of the audience dislikes the film, then it sucks for them. Therefore, Spielbergs films SUCK!

    Arguing with the troll will get you nowhere. The counter-argument misses half the point, and they will claim the same of you. What's the best way of dealing with this sort of Troll?

    Ignore it. Killfile the thread.

    Others will join in, undoubtedly - but the more people ignore it, the better. Even by acknowledging to the Troll that you know what it is ("You are a Troll! Go away!") will boost his ego.

    Like the best way of winning a fight, the best way of beating a Troll is to not get involved. That way, you can't get hurt.

    So, in brief...

    BE CALM - Don't rise to their antagonising attitude.
    DON'T LOWER YOURSELF TO THEIR LEVEL - Don't start throwing insults at them. It's what they want.
    PAY A COMPLIMENT - It is the last thing they are expecting - and the opposite of what they want.
    ENCOURAGE THEM TO JOIN IN - Let them know they have valid points, and make their faults seem like yours.
    But, above all else, USE YOUR KILLFILE - It is there for a reason, and it is your most powerful weapon.

  8. Will this advice get rid of all Trolls?
    No. There will always be the persistent ones, and their will always be people in the discussion forum who will inadvertently feed the Trolls ego.

    But even for the Trolls that don't completely disappear, your actions will sow the seed of doubt in their minds about their passtimes. For Trolls that just won't go away, there is always the ultimate weed-killer application - The Killfile!

    If worse comes to worst, however, don't say anything. Ignore them. Killfile them, and any thread that gets created by the topics they start. Frankly, they are not worth the time of yours that they will waste.

  9. Who is NOT a Troll?
    Just because someone has said something you happen to not like, it does not mean that they are a Troll. They may just not like you, or you may have a difference of opinion. It happens! Deal with it.

    If a post is on-topic, assume that it is not a Troll. The more wayward it gets, the more likely it is to be one.

    This takes a little bit of common sense. In for example, Off-Topic posts are common, and Trolls are infrequent, partly because of this relaxed attitude.

    Everyone posts something they regret later on - so give the poster some leeway. If they really offend you, just Killfile them - I can't say this enough.

    Similarly, YOU may be accused of being a Troll. In which case, don't get upset. Find out what it is that people don't like you doing, and stop it. Or move on to another, more accomodating group. There's no real harm done.

About this site
This site is pretty basic, I know. But the advice is solid. Over time, I may improve the look of this site, but frankly, I would prefer to keep it as it stands, as long as it is readable.

My email address isn't published here. I am already susceptible to so much Spam it's unbelievable, and I do not wish to become involved in any flame wars with any trolls. If you honestly wish to contact me, your wishes will have to go unfulfilled. If necessity arises, I may contact you.

Do I still post on Usenet? Occasionally - but not as much as I used to. I tend to lurk now, reading all your messages instead(!)

But please, if you find this site of use, link to it from your website (please!), add the URL to your signature file for Usenet, add the URL to your signature for your outgoing emails. Spread the word, and defeat the Trolls!

Anti Troll Links

The Links below offer more advice on handling Trolls. Some of them cover the same ground I do, some use a little variation on the terminology that I use, but I'm sure you'll notice a pattern in the data that is presented to you.

By all means, read as much as you want to. If you find a dead link to one of these sites, I'll have it fixed sooner rather than later.

Andrew Heenan's Guide to Flaming - Covers the whole board, including trolls. Very good reference.
Anti Troll FAQ
Beware The Troll
How To Avoid Being Trolled - Newbie Advice
How To Handle A Troll - AOL Based Trolls
Internet Trolls
Netiquette - Touches on Spamming and Flaming, as well as expected behaviour on the net
Usenet AD 1540
Troll University - Ironic Troll tutorial... should be very good once completed
The Usenet Troll Song

And everyone who uses any form of discussion forums should read this. Note: I take no responsibility for the language of this website, although I do wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments. If you are not mature enough to understand the use of profanity in the appropriate context, do not click on the following link. Welcome To The Internet!

Netiquette and Flame Netiquette & Flame A Ring Surf Net Ring
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