Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Hugh has a great post about "The Happy Troll". I've been thinking about this recently as well and I think he hits the nail on the head. This blog is my living room and if you can't behave, I'll ban you. It's not about censorship. I just don't have time to deal with all of the "Happy Trolls". Maybe I should put together a new comment policy that deals with the notion of "The Happy Troll."


Amen! About time someone says so...
These lifeless losers can shout "freedom of speech" all they want, respect and knowing how to play nice serve everyone much much better.

May I suggest we make this little badge a common sight?

I think one of the best troll handling methods was something Joel Spolsky does with his "Joel on Software" message boards. When he hides a troll post, the board software still shows the post to the person who originally posted it, detecting that user via a stored cookie. So, unless you purge cookies or switch browsers, you can't tell that you've been removed from the conversation, other than by noticing that no one's responding to you anymore.

I think a policy would be nice. I am not a happy troll but sometimes wonder if I cross the line.

Thanks for the mention, Joi =)

Life is short. People tick me off and I nix them. It's not really "dissent" that irritates me. It's bad manners.

Yeah, I know, "bad manners" is a subjective call. But on my blog, it's my call to make.

One thing I wonder about: would it be useful (to others) for you to keep a kind-of blog roll (aka, public list) of your trolls?

I know that one site's troll might be another's friend, but I'm guessing "high profile" sites like yours attract folks who tend to troll-around on multiple sites.

It might be useful, if several sites were listing their trolls, to be able to triangulate and "recognize" folks who at least might be potential trolls (e.g., when they start commenting on a new site).

On the other hand, this could result in there being a "system" that folks might game or abuse, etc. So, maybe it's better to ban quietly.

Jay. Yeah. I've thought of that, but that's a slippery slope I think. The problem is that people change and blacklisting people is generally a bad thing. I think the only effective method is to point out to people privately if you see a troll on some else's site that you've dealt with before. And as you say, some trolls are only trolls on certain sites.

Thanks, Boris. I have already placed your badge on my blog (though, honestly, I get 0 trolls).

I think you guys should track down the trolls' IPs, toilet paper their homes, and then call it even.

It's less your living room than it is like your area of the cafeteria in high school. If you have a high-traffic blog (or forum of any kind), you're the popular cheerleader and you get to say who is a loser and who is cool enough to approach. Or at least you play one on the internet. Rich people, VCs, CEOs, it's all high school.

It's less your living room than it is like your area of the cafeteria in high school.

I have to agree. It's not like your living room unless, maybe, you're using a home-rolled communications protocol over a private LAN. Still, the blog is yours. And nobody has the right to relieve themselves in your car, for example, just because you're using a public freeway.

I don't want to start stretching metaphors here, but the only "public" thing here is how you get to my blog. It's "public" in the sense that's open for people to wander in without permission, but the blog is hosted on a private machine. I used to have parties in my living room a lot. People would puke, be rude, fight, not flush the toilet. I would have to clean up the house the next day after the party. A few of my friends would help. This metaphor is still the closest metaphor in my personal experience.

If I were in a high school cafeteria and someone started bothering me, I don't think I'd tell them to leave. I think I'd leave. That's the difference. I can't really leave my own living room and I'll have to clean it up in the end.

I don't see much room for argument against your assertions, Joi. Manners are a very important part of civilization. (physical and virtual) I don't see how a civlized person could say otherwise with a straight face.
Please invite me to your next party. I will clean up some puke, but only my own!

Kudos to you for taking note that some people can learn from their (painful) lessons.

I'm just saying that controlling access to these spaces is too important a topic to resort to metaphors like "crapping on your carpet." Most students feel trapped in high school and can't "just leave" when someone bothers them. It is not really a public place, since only a relatively few people have access, but it's not private (in almost any sense) either. Sort of like a hotel lobby, or sitting in an airplane. Or playing an online game. Or taking your kids to a public park or playground. Free interaction, supervision, social ostracism, legislated and enforced rules are tools that can chosen but which have consequences.

Will your social space, whether physical or virtual, be a libertarian live-and-let-live place, a red-state common-decency-is-important place, or a blue-state command-and-control-politically-correct place?

It is the future of work, of socializing, of many types of play. Lurkers, silent admirers, those just seeking to learn how to get along, others who are trying to find the right tone, true believers, predators, brown-nosers, attention-mongers, yes-men, psychotics, etc., etc., will interact in very complex ways. You know, like high school.

Flesh Wound: Yes. I agree that the high school metaphor is a pretty good one for blogs generally. I just don't think that MY blog is as much a public place as a public cafeteria. The way that blogs link to each other might look more like a cafeteria layout.

Look, fellas. You can spin methaphors until the cows come home, but you'll never be cheerleaders or handsome jocks. You'll always be nerds. (j/k) Am I on an ignore list yet?

I've been banned from more than a few right wing sites. I was called a troll because I chose to debate issues. Often the issues were cut and dried fact that I was more than willing to back up with many links, but again I was the troll. In this way I see the whole wording of troll to be wrong. Too many sites, left and right, will ban people who just don't agree with the manifesto they are working on. Instead they should just have drop down menus with the correct answers they are looking for.

So for me I rather enjoyed being called a troll because more often than not it meant they disagreed with me and would soon ban me seeing as how they didn't really want open debate, but rather agreement to whatever garbage they were currently spouting off.

Shame is with both sides terming the unwanted, trolls, and soo many sites using it as an excuse to ban those who don't agree, well it becomes meaningless. Troll for many now only means unwanted commenting, and has little to do with the amount of profanity, or abuse they may spew.

Just a long winded thought that didn't come all of the way out.

IXLNXS - I wouldn't call that trolling, but I didn't see the posts. I can generally tell the difference between a troll and someone who is just debating by what they "call" me or other they are debating with. For starters, if they call you "asswipe" or "fucker" before they've made their point, good chance they're a troll.

I've often been called a troll over in because I like to have fun and maybe because I'm a troll?

The "happiest troll" I know is this guy - Rob Bennett - he has thousands of useless posts and has been banned from at least 4 boards:

This is Rob Bennett.

I agree with the comment above that many people today use the word "troll" inappropriately. Some use it to mean "a person who does not agree with everything I say." I see it as one of the great benefits of the internet that I can connect with people who have different viewpoints and thereby learn from them. I don't call the people who teach me stuff I didn't know "trolls."

There are indeed people who engage in abusive posting tactics and who should be removed from posting communities for the protection of those posting constructively. If you want to call those people "trolls," I guess that's fine; I just call them abusive posters and seek their removal. But I've seen many cases in which the best posters at a board were referred to as "trolls" by the most abusive group in that community. The word is much misused.


4 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Happy Trolls.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Happy Trolls???? from The Blog Herald: more blog news more often
December 20, 2004 4:07 PM

Hugh at Gapingvoid has written about a phenomena he describes as "The Happy Troll": "Basically, the Happy Troll is happiest when he is “shitting in your living room” without you actually noticing. That’s the art of it. He does this by “ad... Read More

Beware of Happy Trolls from The Progressive Blog Alliance HQ
December 21, 2004 1:21 AM

Gapingvoid has identified a new species of Troll, which has been classified as "The Happy Troll" .

Read More

[Commenting on Blogs:] "It's less your living room than it is like your area of the cafeteria in high school. If you have a high-traffic blog (or forum of any kind), you're the popular cheerleader and you get to say... Read More

[Commenting on Blogs:] "It's less your living room than it is like your area of the cafeteria in high school. If you have a high-traffic blog (or forum of any kind), you're the popular cheerleader and you get to... Read More