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[P]
Trolling via Radio

By TuxNugget in Media
Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 10:08:09 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Radio host Phil Hendrie makes his living by impersonating or faking his own guests. He has claimed that the callers are real, but it is possible that some are faked as well. You can listen for yourself at his web site.

Clearly, Phil Hendrie demonstrates that what we call "trolling" online actually predates the internet, and is possible on other media. But does it vary by media? And, why is it so prevalent in online community?


To talk about trolling we need to first try to define it. Rather than merely cite authority, I think we can see for ourselves that the word refers to either the verb or the noun. Personally, I believe the word takes its root from the fishing verb of trolling, that is, moving the bait slowly through the water or pulling it behind a moving boat in an attempt to get strikes. Interestingly, the noun form does not damage the definition: the dungeon figure of something hard to kill that regenerates its damage seems to apply to our internet trolls; so does the fairytale image of some ugly monster who blocks a bridge or gate and prevents good people from going into, or functioning within, the community. Instead, the noun seems to be descriptive of those who are involved with the activity described by the verb.

There are several media on which I have witnessed trolling. It is hard to know where to begin in describing it online, and almost impossible to compile a complete anthology of the most popular trolls -- so I will let those commenting help me on that section.

On Phil's show, we hear a variety of fake guests: racists, sexists, rich 'guests' who feel they are better than the average person, the lawsuit-happy, and experts who are really idiots in disguise. Given that the callers are real (which is not at all clear to me), the joke is on them when they call to complain about the guest's views. The 'guest', really Phil, almost always moves the argument to a personal issue with the caller rather than the social issue that the caller wanted to argue about. We see a lot of this online, as well. The goal is to infuriate the caller/victim until they start to yell or hang up. Since the medium of radio allows you to hear people's voices and guess their emotional state of mind, this is funnier than the online version where threads degenerate into massess of he said and she said, >>>>>, >>>>>>, and name calling where you can no longer tell who is calling whom what.

A similar phenomenon occurred on the Magic Mountain 2m amateur radio repeater when I lived in Southern California several years ago. Basically, people disobeyed rules like "no obscenity", and "no interfering with others' transmissions". These are not merely good ideas, they are FCC regs backed up by $10,000 fines. The sound effects that certain people transmitted to interfere with others' transmissions were often quite fancy and required some technical knowledge to produce. This was trolling in the classic sense, to attract attention rather than merely scoff at the rules. It attracted both the self-proclaimed ham policemen as well as a number of lurkers who might occaisonally become participants. Unfortunately, a few of the repeat violators received the $10,000 fines and one even bought a little prison time. It is not simply the internet that has no sense of humor -- any large community will include those who insist that strict rules be followed to the letter, and harsh penalities be delivered to the violators.

A bit of history may be in order. Amateur radio is not supposed to be like CB or the internet, but rather is a community of technical people who passed tests to obtain their licenses and who are supposed to obey certain rules. There is a whole tier of licenses, from novice to extra class (though it was recently shrunk by the elimination of "Technician" and "Advanced" class), which tends to instill a sense of hierarchy in the community. Usually, these communities are well ordered and the higher classes are quite willing to remind the younger hams about the rules. In extreme circumstances, the owners of the repeaters (radios placed atop mountains to repeat transmissions and make possible communities based on line-of-sight VHF and UHF technology) can just turn them off. This is akin to Rusty moderating kuro5hin by threatening to turn off the server when annoying posts or comments started to appear, and then turn it back on later -- except that the medium is audio, rather than text.

In truth, anyone can buy a radio -- you need not show your license. It is actually quite difficult to track down those who violate the rules, and so the ham radio medium allows a certain amount of anonymity -- especially for those who break the rules and do not give a call sign.

Although it would seem that the ease of attaining anonymity and a low cost of discovery are primary factors in determining the amount of trolling, Phil's show makes it clear that anonymity is not necessary and the hams make it clear that people will troll even if the potential cost of discovery is very high. Perhaps there is something else involved.

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Poll
Trolling
o is only for idiots 27%
o is silly, but harmless 41%
o is harmful because it costs internet communities the credibility needed to affect the real world. 9%
o is criminal ... the penalty is Death... Death, by Bunda. 21%

Votes: 74
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Kuro5hin
o Phil Hendrie
o listen for yourself
o Also by TuxNugget


Display: Sort:
Trolling via Radio | 31 comments (31 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
What is wrong with swearing? (1.00 / 11) (#1)
by mattc on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 01:57:29 AM EST

How is there anything wrong with swearing? Why are we not allowed to say certain 'forbidden words?' It seems kind of silly to me to make a rule against saying certain words.

From this point forward I declare the word "the" a swear word!

P.S. It sounds like a fun radio show.

Trolls are an asset (3.45 / 11) (#2)
by eLuddite on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 02:39:09 AM EST

As a form of expression, it is unlikely that trolling represents a new idiom for communication. I've always thought it as a form of dramatic satire. You engage your target in a conversation in such a way as to cause him to expose the ridiculousness of his own situation. Here's a rope, my intent is that you hang yourself. Ok, start talking.

People, its a very respected, very legitimate literary form.

Let's see if I can think of a good analogy rooted in more familiar terms. Ok, for the sake of arguement, try to imagine kurobots as lilliputans and streetlawyer as Swift. Does that make a little more sense?

Streetlawyer is a satirist. If you doubt this, visit his homepage and read his version of Bonfire of the Vanities. You'll notice that the streetlawyer character is done in (well, loses a battle of the sexes) precisely because of the same qualities that make him such a fine street lawyer.

It's excellent satire, really.

Now, a satirist who has no empathy for his subject is not a good satirst. Similiarly, a troll who doesnt give a shit about the subject he's trolling isnt going to be a good troll. What can I say? People should be a little more discriminating on how they rate their trolls.

Now here's the problem: how do you know everything I just wrote isnt complete bs?

---
God hates human rights.

Drawing the line (4.50 / 4) (#4)
by Miniluv on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 02:48:23 AM EST

People have heard me say, well a few anyways, that "there are no trolls" and "trolling is making excuses for being a moron". Those are the length and breadth of my opinion regarding the phenomenon called "trolling". Things like Signal 11's supposed "social experiment" at Slashdot, Streetlawyers ESR "expose", etc. Those qualify as making excuses for being a moron in my mind.

Satire, on the other hand, is a good thing. I believe the health of a society is measurable in large part by it's ability to consume satire, most especially satire about itself. A healthy Christian is one who can laugh at Heinlein for exposing some of the more extreme absurdities of their church. Similarly a healthy Irishman can laugh at Swift and his Modest Proposal.

Most of what we see on K5 isn't satire. Satire is humor intended to expose an issue, not to provoke a reaction. The reaction is normally provoked by satire, but that isn't the main purpose. Trolling is, in effect, writing to provoke a reaction. There is no need to take a stand on an issue, and most people troll in such a ham-handed, clumsy fashion as to throw doubt on everything else they say about anything.

I've found that the easiest policy is to merely treat everything they say as fact, and allow my opinion of their intelligence to be lowered to the point where I no longer feel even a shred of remorse alternately attacking their character/intelligence/worth and ignoring them ad infinitum.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

Signal 11 is a troll?! (4.00 / 3) (#6)
by eLuddite on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 03:17:54 AM EST

Signal 11 is - let me try to be as politically correct as possible - a synchophant to the prevailing zeitgeist[1]. Quite the opposite of a good troll.

Your characterization of a troll as someone who merely wishes to elicit a response is accurate as far as it goes, but incomplete in that it goes no further. Karma whores wish to elicit a positive response, for example. Another example is my take on trolls who display empathy for their target. Presumably, if I make light of your limited view of the world, you will see fit to add some depth.

Satire is humor intended to expose an issue, not to provoke a reaction.

Oh no, not necessarily true at all. Swift was a pamphleteer - he wanted to provoke reaction in the truest sense of the word. The ESR essays were satire by virtue of their attack on the folly of ESR through derision.

 

[1] That's derision, not flammage :-)

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Oops, meant to reply to #4. (none / 0) (#7)
by eLuddite on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 03:20:31 AM EST

Although I am my own best company, I try not to talk with myself in public.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Trolling is what k5 stories are (3.86 / 15) (#3)
by The Cunctator on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 02:46:20 AM EST

Most k5 stories are trolls. A troll isn't pure unwanted noise, as is implied by the story's examples; that's spam, or crapflooding. There's a bit of overlap in flame bait, but this story waffles on a definition and tramples over such distinctions. Though I recognize that "troll" is getting a more general connotation, the clearer definition goes back to the fishing connection, which is its derivation. (See The Jargon File, to merely cite authority.)

A troll is something that is intended to draw out a particular, knee-jerk response. One self-righteous, intelligent blowhard has a perfect trolling .sig: The Humblest Man on the Net. Newbies read his arrogant, uncompromising posts, and rise to the bait dangling in the .sig. He averages a catch a week.

A "good" k5 story usually is in fact a good troll; take a topic of interest to the audience (Linux/the environment/poverty/geekdom), stake out a contrarian claim (x is bad/overrated/unimportant/the most important thing in the UNIVERSE) and then support it with lots of links and informal fallacies.

The mismash of ideas draws out the responses as a hooker attracts the i-bankers. Take this story, for example. It tells an interesting story about Phil Hendrie and about amateur radio spammers and then mishmashes them in with the concept of trolling, all the while managing to avoid defining the word.

By assertively changing the definition of the word "troll", he compels my response. I hold the highest regard for such phrases as "Rather than merely cite authority", "I think we can see for ourselves", "It is hard to know", "what we call", "is not supposed to be like" and "Although it would seem".

The story is chock-full of "seem"s, "almost"s, "clearly"s, "actually"s, "merely"s and "really"s.

Note how effectively infuriating/convincing these words are without asserting anything. Although it would seem that this is almost clearly a story, I think we can see for ourselves that it is actually akin to what we call "trolling". Perhaps there is something else involved. And, why is it so prevalent in the online community?

Bonus points: pick apart this comment for its own rhetorical devices and informal fallacies.

Start with a kernel of truth (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by TuxNugget on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 02:52:20 AM EST

This analysis is very interesting. I'm not sure I posted the story intending it as a troll, but if it is a better troll than a story, then so be it. I'd much rather identify what I'm good at that what I suck at.

Don't forget that when assserting crap later, it is very important to start with a kernel of truth. Truth that can be verified by merely clicking a hyperlink is one of the best kinds.

[ Parent ]

Re: Start with a kernel of truth (3.50 / 2) (#8)
by eLuddite on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 03:29:27 AM EST

I'm not sure I posted the story intending it as a troll,

Well, here's the thing, asylums are an oaisis of sanity in an insane world (c.f. this one.)Lunatics are perfectly reasonable people if you ask them their opinion of themselves. Everyone who goes to jail is innocent. So on and so on, as many kernel of truths as you wish.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Is this where it gets personal? (none / 0) (#9)
by TuxNugget on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 03:41:55 AM EST

Good try. But I already know I'm insane.

I had to restrain myself from arguing the definition of spam with Cunctator, since spam to me would be commercial in nature.

If everything starts to look like bait (if all you have is a hammer...), does that mean I'll grow fins and learn how to swim?

That would be cool.

[ Parent ]

and there are no reasonable conclusions...? heh. (3.00 / 1) (#13)
by sayke on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 07:25:49 AM EST

none of the lunatics i've talked to were reasonable people. peaceful, honest people should not be in jail, yet lots of them are, so draw your own conclusions about innocence there.

the moment you decide that no decisions can be any better then any other ones, that contradiction is inescapable, and that nothing follows anything else, ya collapse into a hopeless morass that renders communication and engineering impossible. that communication and engineering happen, and happen beautifully, decries the absurdity and uselessness of that morass... but i guess a lot of people like it in there, eating their own contradictory tale...

i've got a mantra: "i am here now". is it not beautiful?


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

Where can I buy a police band radio? (2.50 / 8) (#10)
by Blarney on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 03:55:12 AM EST

I mean a transmitter, of course! That's my lifelong dream.

cop: got an expired tag here, run this plate.
dispatch: coming right up... nope, it's clean.
cop: alright, I'm gonna search the vehicle.
Blarney: OINK! OINK OINK OINK!
dispatch: who is this?
Blarney: i'm a talking pig! oink oink oink!
cop: i've found some marijuana, bringing him down
Blarney: in my best Wilbur from Charlotte's Web voice i can talk! i'm a talking pig! oink oink oink!

This transmitter must run off of 12-volt DC, of course, and be built inside the chassis of a common mass-produced CB transceiver, and work with the same antenna. It should also be possible to burn out some internal fuses with a power surge and convert it to a normal CB .... oh well, I can dream, can't I?

Oh yeah, I don't know if I'm a troll or not - maybe. I love to check the My Comments, and I always feel good when I get some replies. It's also cool when my post gets 20 moderations or so. I always write what I think - does that make me not a troll?

I don't care about getting "mojo" - I don't even know how to check my mojo! Maybe somebody will tell me someday? Not that it matters - I'll never get there. I'll post something completely obnoxious and find it rated about 3.5, 4, and then I'll post something totally innocious and find it slammed with a blizzard of 1's. Not even worth trying for "mojo", I guess.

But as long as somebody replies, and people bother to moderate, that shows that I'm being read and makes me feel good. If that makes me a troll, I guess I'm a troll then.



Trolling (4.25 / 8) (#11)
by spiralx on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 04:12:22 AM EST

For another master of media trolling, check out Brass Eye (mostly in DivX format, but some are still in RealVideo unfortunately) by Chris Morris. In one of the episodes he got a whole bunch of celebrities whipped up about a made up drug called "cake", and recorded them saying things like "cake is a made up drug" for TV. In fact, a question was raised about it in Parliament... :)

This was trolling in the classic sense, to attract attention rather than merely scoff at the rules.

Scoffing at the rules? Sounds more like spamming or crapflooding to me? Although I personally troll /. (see my HOWTO) I like the place and don't feel any need to "scoff at the rules". And as for attracting attention, well I'd rather the troll got the attention, not me :)

As for why people troll, well the reasons are as varied as the people that do it are. Typical stereotypes of 15-year old AOL kids may have a place somewhere, but it applies to none of the people I know that troll, and neither does any kind of bitter resentment of the world around them. I started doing it because my job was so dull and I got annoyed at the party line espoused by so many /bots, and the intellectual challenge is a factor as well. But that's just me, and to try and give a reason why people do it is stupid - why do people do anything?

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey

"Intellectual challenge"?? (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by DesiredUsername on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 09:25:20 PM EST

What challenge is there in making morons squawk? Or are you saying the challenge is in fooling the largest number of people? To which I'd ask: If you fool EVERYBODY, was it really a troll to begin with? That is, if a non-"party-line", troll-savvy reader takes your post seriously what makes your post different than a serious one from an immature author?

You might answer "intent". Then I say this: if a smart, savvy reader can't tell that what you are writing is intended as satire, then you are a poor artist, not an excellent one.

In other words, non-obvious trolls are pointless, obvious ones are immature--so why do it at all?

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Not a troll. (3.81 / 11) (#12)
by Holloway on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 04:24:52 AM EST

Where's the poll option saying that trolls are useful? Baiting people - however cruel - often causes them to explain themselves and so does serve a purpose. Bluntly forcing an explanation may be a side effect but some people can't defend their opinions with evidence. A degree of trolling is a good thing.

(I'm not sure how to explain the grits portman goatsex trolls though - it's not really a troll, more a cult) <pHow many times is it assumed that BSD is faster than Linux; That ICANN are poopheads; Or that New Zealand has the cleanest rivers, lushest grass[1] and most suple sheep.

Certainly opinion without fact has it's place and there's not enough time or desire to go into minute detail all the time. Detail is good tohugh, and often trolling serves an excellent purpose.

[1] you know what I mean.


== Human's wear pants, if they don't wear pants they stand out in a crowd. But if a monkey didn't wear pants it would be anonymous

If trolls put their money where their mouths were (5.00 / 1) (#23)
by afeldspar on Fri Mar 23, 2001 at 01:48:09 PM EST

Where's the poll option saying that trolls are useful? Baiting people - however cruel - often causes them to explain themselves and so does serve a purpose. Bluntly forcing an explanation may be a side effect but some people can't defend their opinions with evidence. A degree of trolling is a good thing.

Show me someone who limits their trolling to the degree that it is useful. This borders on the Existential Fallacy, here...

I've never seen a troll who does the single thing that would go farthest towards giving trolling value, and that is positive reinforcement of the critical thinking which trollers say they're trying to evoke.

If trolls were truly concerned about teaching people to think, they'd pretend to hold some controversial opinion, wait until people have responded with intelligent discourse, and then say to those people, "Gee, that's a good point, I never thought of that before" or the like.

But trolls never do that. They either abandon the discussion entirely, since their ego's been stroked with attention and that's all they really wanted, or they keep baiting to provoke even bigger reactions. Note. Not better, bigger.

This flies in the face of all the noble aspirations trolls like to pretend to, because the net effect is to lock people very solidly into their own opinion. Why? Because if they put thought and effort into their discourse and what they get back is purposeful, willful idiocy, why should they bother? Trolls leave the world of discourse worse than they found it, because those who encounter them will afterwards be quicker to dismiss controversial opinions as "ye gods, another damn troll" and ignore what once they might have engaged with.

Trolls are simply spoiled little brats who like to cry "WOLF!!" at all hours of the night and day and flatter themselves that they're part of a "Wolf Early Warning System" that everyone needs even though no one asked for it.


-- For those concerned about the "virality" of the GPL, a suggestion: Write Your Own Damn Code.
[ Parent ]
Re: If trolls put their money where their mouths (none / 0) (#24)
by eLuddite on Fri Mar 23, 2001 at 08:56:04 PM EST

If trolls were truly concerned about teaching people to think,

Why should trolls hold themselves to a higher standard of scrutiny than anyone else? They are your equal, not your teacher. Co-conspirators in a _discussion_. Industrialists arent truly concerned about the greater economic welfare of your mother-in-law, either, they just happen to benefit her as a positive side effect of their venality.

This flies in the face of all the noble aspirations trolls like to pretend to, because the net effect is to lock people very solidly into their own opinion.

You make it sound as if trolls have this wonderful, magical power to reduce their victims into impotent morons without the wherewithal to defend themselves. Whatever you may think of their modus operundi, their arguements stand or fall according to the same rules of reasoning and rhetoric that everyone else is judged by.

Trolls are simply spoiled little brats who ...

That's one over-generalization, I suppose. Here's another: 90% of _anything_ is bullshit.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Re: If trolls put their money where their mouths (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by afeldspar on Sat Mar 24, 2001 at 03:47:55 AM EST

If trolls were truly concerned about teaching people to think,
Why should trolls hold themselves to a higher standard of scrutiny than anyone else?

Being responsible for the consequences of what you do is a higher standard than the rest of us face?

In any case, since people have been claiming that trolling is so positive in its consequences, that higher standard of scrutiny is utterly called for.

They are your equal, not your teacher. Co-conspirators in a _discussion_. Industrialists arent truly concerned about the greater economic welfare of your mother-in-law, either, they just happen to benefit her as a positive side effect of their venality.

Which is why, when they try to claim that those positive side effects are the ones they should be judged upon, we should ruthlessly refuse that sophistry and judge them instead on all the effects of their behavior, not just a selected set.

You make it sound as if trolls have this wonderful, magical power to reduce their victims into impotent morons without the wherewithal to defend themselves. Whatever you may think of their modus operundi, their arguements stand or fall according to the same rules of reasoning and rhetoric that everyone else is judged by.

And you make it sound as if the only effect trolls can have is a positive effect, because clearly everyone has the wherewithal to defend themselves and won't suffer any ill effects from having their time wasted and their trust abused.

People are not 'impotent morons without the wherewithal to defend themselves'... but neither are they omnipotent and tireless, and so perfectly able to defend themselves that trolls can safely act with utter disregard, confident that they will never do any damage.

Trolls are simply spoiled little brats who ...
That's one over-generalization, I suppose. Here's another: 90% of _anything_ is bullshit.

Yup, you caught an over-generalization. I would have viewed it as more impressive if you could have included the whole sentence, not just the part you had a reply to, but can't have everything.


-- For those concerned about the "virality" of the GPL, a suggestion: Write Your Own Damn Code.
[ Parent ]
Re: If trolls put their money where their mouths (none / 0) (#26)
by eLuddite on Sat Mar 24, 2001 at 10:55:51 AM EST

You know, I dont actually disagree with anything you say; someone is going to have their trust abused and, sure, there is an intent to do damage.

No one likes to see anyone belittled for holding perfectly reasonable beliefs but if someone is so smug in those beliefs and feels so protected by the conventional wisdom in their forum that they fall for a troll, well then I dont feel any sympathy for them when their position is utterly confuted. That they are also made to look ridiculous in the process is merely their just deserts and a visceral reminder that everyone else should examine their own pretexts.

Depth and complexity in a troll is rare but it does happen and it does have a place. If you doubt the latter, try to argue against Linux or file sharing in places such as slashdot where nothing short of tactical, well placed nuclear explosions will make a dent in the affectations of its members. The simple fact of the matter is that communities can become so ossified in their way of thinking, that they beg to have someone be made an example for the rest.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Re: If trolls put their money where their mouths (none / 0) (#27)
by eLuddite on Sat Mar 24, 2001 at 12:01:12 PM EST

The sudden occurence of Arkansas commitee recommends banning the theory of evolution in the article queue is somewhat fortuitous. Do you have any doubt that Clarence Darrow would be maligned as a troll, today, in a creationists forum? Read excerpts from Darrow's examamination of Bryan [1]. I have no doubt that on 1925, a troll (and much more, of course) came calling in Dayton, Tennessee. If you concede that belief is relative to its surroundings, you must concede that trolling is a matter of perspective.

 

[1] Amongst very many other examples of transcripts available at that site. The root URL is Scopes "Monkey" Trial (1925).

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Not all with unpopular opinions are trolls (4.50 / 2) (#28)
by afeldspar on Sat Mar 24, 2001 at 01:17:56 PM EST

The sudden occurence of Arkansas commitee recommends banning the theory of evolution in the article queue is somewhat fortuitous. Do you have any doubt that Clarence Darrow would be maligned as a troll, today, in a creationists forum?

I have absolutely no doubt that he would be called one, and I also have absolutely no doubt that the label would be entirely incorrect. Darrow was both advocating for his own beliefs and doing his duty as an officer of the court.

The fact that Darrow would still be called a troll is evidence for what I have been asserting. Yes, some people would dismiss him simply because they don't want to hear opinions other than their own. Others would dismiss him simply because they can't conceptualize someone holding, in good faith, opinions so divergent from their own.

But others would dismiss him as a troll simply because they are used to being trolled. This is why trolling is not a harmless pastime; it is already difficult enough for people to understand that someone else may hold a viewpoint different from their own with logic and evidence behind it; it is already easy enough for them to salvage the certainty of their worldview by finding some way to dismiss the person: he's gullible, he's stupid, he's insane...

Trolling only puts yet another easy dismissal at their fingertips: He's a troll.


-- For those concerned about the "virality" of the GPL, a suggestion: Write Your Own Damn Code.
[ Parent ]
Re: Not all with unpopular opinions are trolls (none / 0) (#29)
by eLuddite on Sat Mar 24, 2001 at 02:31:15 PM EST

I'll concede that trolling is overused to the point of dilution in meaning and effectiveness. I'll even concede its less than honorable nature in the best of light. Still, having seen some fairly elaborate examples, and having been a victim of at least one or two which caused me to examine my own assumptions, I'm not prepared to dismiss the practice as entirely corrupt or inept.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Trolling defined (4.81 / 16) (#14)
by jabber on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 09:33:06 AM EST

The term 'trolling' comes from the practice of troll fishing, where bait is put on a hook and pulled back and forth through the water to catch fish. A "Troll" is someone who does this in a post. The purpose of a troll post is to get bites, to provoke reactions to tasty little morsels, hopefully by those too ignorant to notice the barb before it is too late.

The reason people troll online is the same as why they troll on lakes. For entertainment. For the little kick of adrenaline that they get when a sucker bites on what they hope to benefit them, just to get dragged around, pulled into an unfamiliar environment, and either tortured and killed, or humiliated and released.

Your D.J. example is not a troll, he is a fraud. Howard Stern is a troll. Gary Craig is a troll. Don Imus is a troll. Anyone who puts out a kind of bait that provokes a reaction, with the ulterior motive of benefiting from that reaction, is a troll.

Trolls are typically misinformation, to bait the pedantic. Or crude and morally unstable to get the prudes to bite. Or offensive, to get the peacemakers to expose their ethics as little more than aesthetics. Etc, etc.

The argument that trolls educate through misdirection is bunk, it's trolls trying to justify their existence with self-agrandisement. The argument begs for a response, and is itself a troll. Trolling is a form of sadism. Education is much more effective when it is straightforward and clear.

Trolling violates the intellectual integrity of a discussion by increasing it's entropy on purpose. It bruises egos and introduces distrust. It strives to disassemble consensus. While the pro-troll response to this is that a certain degree of cynicism and thick skin is healthy, it is presumptious on the part of the troll to be the instrument of delivery of these qualities. Yes, evolution is better supported through conflict, but conflict is unpleasant and painful.

Trolls kick over ant hills. They put odd bugs together to see if they will fight, and move things from their rightful place just to break people out of their routine. They hit the reset switch on your PC and claim that they do so to encourage you to save your work more often.

Flamebait is a kind of troll, but a poor and unskilled one. It's like fishing with a granade. Your D.J.'s assumed personalities are a means of being a troll. They enable his trolling, not constitute it.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

A problem here (4.00 / 2) (#15)
by wiredog on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 10:08:39 AM EST

The argument that trolls educate through misdirection is bunk

By your definition you could argue that "A modest proposal" is a "troll" with no social value. Some posts that are called "trolls" are intended to get the victims to think.

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.
Phage
[ Parent ]

Serendipity (4.00 / 1) (#19)
by jabber on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 03:54:30 PM EST

Trolling, as I see it, often involves intentional misinformation to draw out the ignorance of the victim, and to cause them to expose their incompleteness of thought to public ridicule. This is not educational in nature. It is more like asking the ugly girl to the prom on a bet than offering to tutor the dumb kid.

On the other hand, saying things incompletely, in a way that will leave the last piece of logic for the 'victim' to fill in, is educational. Lessons learned best are those we learn for ourselves. Serendipitous learning sticks with you because you made it happen - it was not handed to you. Trolling seems never to result in "Ah-ha!" moments, prefering these to the egotistically rewarding "Gotcha!".

It is a rare troll indeed who has the discipline to not toy with the fish. Few of our fellow posters have the social conscience to foster self improvement in others. Some think that they do, but can't see their own arrogance and vindictiveness if the lesson they seek to teach is rebuffed. Furthermore, they too often try to teach lessons which are worthless, and get frustrated and angry when their efforts are not rewarded with lightbulbs going off over everyone's head.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Trolling for education (4.25 / 4) (#16)
by DesiredUsername on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 10:38:23 AM EST

"The argument that trolls educate through misdirection is bunk, it's trolls trying to justify their existence with self-agrandisement. The argument begs for a response, and is itself a troll. Trolling is a form of sadism. Education is much more effective when it is straightforward and clear."

I'm not sure I 100% agree with this. I fully agree that trolling for the purpose of education is bunk--but that trolling doesn't provide education as a side effect isn't so clear to me. I find education to be most effective when used "for real"--giving a straightforward and clear example of (subtle) trolling is hard to do, but pointing one out is great.

Here's an analogy: I could talk all day about how to track a deer in the woods, but only by showing you the tracks will you recognize them again. But saying that the purpose of a deer is to leave tracks that education a future tracker is erroneous.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Last resort (none / 0) (#18)
by rusty on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 02:50:58 PM EST

I would say that trolling is often done just for kicks. But sometimes its done as a "last resort" attempt at education. This is the sort of thing you see at Slashdot a lot -- basically, trolling a certain viewpoint, because you know the rabid proponents of that viewpoint will respond and make themselves look foolish. I think the general idea is that some people will just never listen, so you can use them to hopefully educate the people reading the discussion. This, really, is the Socratic method. Socrates never convinced anyone he was arguing with, because they all were stuck in their pre-conceived viewpoints.Hell, most of the dialogues were probably fictional anyway. The point was that the reader would see how foolish the other party was, and decide the truth for themselves.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Gary Craig (none / 0) (#30)
by perdida on Sat Mar 24, 2001 at 07:55:13 PM EST

the rochester journalist?
The most adequate archive on the Internet.
I can't shit a hydrogen fuel cell car. -eeee
[ Parent ]
Trolling. (4.66 / 3) (#17)
by sparkles on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 12:37:31 PM EST

MY old-timey definition of trolling involves 'innocently' making a provable error resulting in angry and overblown reactions.

You get extra points for:

  • Using the word 'troll' in the process
  • Portraying yourself as as pathetic a character as possible
  • Getting unjustifiably angry reactions over trivial issues
  • The sheer length and breadth and height of the troll
Some trolls are works of art. They can be done individually or as a group, and they can grow and mature. I've seen trolls that lasted over a month, and grew to include up to about ten distinct newsgroups, without being off-topic in any of them.

Please note that I'm not talking about flame-baiting, either. It doesn't take any intelligence or creativity to start a Cats vs. Dogs or Coke vs. Pepsi flamewar.

As far as whether it predates the internet, well, Socratic irony is a teaching method wherein the instructor adopts an ignorant or false premise in order to get his students to argue for and examine their understanding of the truth. It was invented by Socrates from that Bill & Ted movie, which took place in the 1980s, before the internet was invented, so, yes. Trolling predates the internet.

Trolling is a LITTLE different than Socratic (4.00 / 2) (#20)
by DesiredUsername on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 09:13:39 PM EST

"It was invented by Socrates from that Bill & Ted movie, which took place in the 1980s, before the internet was invented, so, yes. Trolling predates the internet."

This humorous troll just highlights the problem of your position: trolls deflate pompous idiots or draw morons out of the wood--the socratic method teaches by means of introspection. In other words, the PURPOSE of the socratic method is light, but the PURPOSE of trolling is heat--and light is just an (infrequent) by-product.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Thats not trolling... (none / 0) (#22)
by pallex on Fri Mar 23, 2001 at 10:37:53 AM EST

...any more than `Candid Camera` is. Unless you are referring to the reaction of the guests. Thats stretching things a bit.


Trolling on KB6C/R? (none / 0) (#31)
by Stormbringer on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 10:59:58 PM EST

...you mean it wasn't all just interference from Loma Linda after all?

73
'HKU


Trolling via Radio | 31 comments (31 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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