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Detecting and Dealing With Trolls on K5

By shoeboy in Meta
Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 06:31:45 AM EST
Tags: Kuro5hin.org (all tags)
Kuro5hin.org

Judging from all the "Your probably trolling, but..." replies to stories and comments that aren't actually trolls, a discussion of what constitutes a troll is sorely needed.

As much as it amuses me to see 3 trolls and 40 offtopic "trolls decrease the signal to noise ratio" posts in the average Slashdot article, I'd just as soon not have that happen here on K5.


So how do you know whether a post or story submission is a troll? Simple, just use the same set of criteria that the Troll High Council uses for judging the quality of their own troll posts:
Is the post designed solely to provoke a response?
This is the most important attribute that defines a troll. If you don't feel the need to reply, then it's not a troll. Don't waste your time calling it one. Just give it an appropriate rating and move on.

It's important to realize that not all posts that generate responses are trolls. That is certainly not the case. Jokes are designed to provoke laughter, flames are designed to provoke anger and sob stories are designed to provoke sympathy. The difference is that the posters of jokes, flames and sob stories are seeking to share. Troll posters seek to manipulate.

Does the post contain a not-so-subtle hint that it may be a troll?
A BSD-rocks Linux-sucks article is sure to prompt a lot of discussion. It may be a troll, it may be a sincere post. How can you tell?

Well, any self respecting troll will give you a hint. (Are you listening KTB?) For example, they might identify the lead programmer of OpenBSD as Theo Ratliff, a basketball player for the Atlanta Hawks, instead of Theo DeRaadt. All responses are worth double points if the post contains this sort of obvious hint.

Is the post emotionally compelling, yet posted by a brand new account?
People tend not to open up in front of strangers. While it would not be unusual or inappropriate for an active member of the K5 community to share an intimate secret or make a difficult confession, a newbie is extremely unlikely to do this.

Does the post attack a belief held by a majority of the K5 community with clearly spurious logic and bogus claims?
This one is an old and extremely reliable trolling technique. It's the only one KTB has ever managed to master. The more easily refuted an offensive attack is, the better. You'll get lots of angry responses.

There's a lot more to trolling than this, but you can be sure that any post or story that does not meet at least condition 1 and one of conditions 2-4 is not a troll. That still leaves the very real possibility of inadvertent trolls and sincere posts that resemble trolls. Consider the case of a poster who claims that the phrase "rule of thumb" comes from an ancient law that held that you could only beat your wife with a stick that was narrower than your thumb. This is both inciteful and factually inaccurate, but it's also a common myth. The poster probably believes that what he is saying is true. Calling him a troll will only give him the idea that K5 is a place where expressing a controversial opinion gets you labeled a troll. Clearly, you need to be careful when dealing with suspected trolls.

Now we get to the meat of the article. How do you deal with suspected troll posts? There are several excellent tactics.

Ignore them.
Trolls are looking for attention. If you don't give it to them, they'll get bored with the site and go away. Unless the troll is gathering a large number of biters or raising points you think need to be addressed, this is the best tactic.

Be polite.
In the troll scoring system, angry responses are worth far more than calm, rational responses. A rational, well reasoned rebuttal is no fun at all. Flames are lots of fun. That's why trhurler gets baited so much -- he always starts ranting and raving.

Give posters the benefit of the doubt.
If you think a post displays trollish characteristics, point out the flaws. Don't say You're probably trolling, but... Instead, say something like you're disguising an op-ed piece as an unbiased review. I'd like to see at least on or two points in favor of Linux vs. OpenBSD. Regardless of which OS you prefer, you must admit that both have at least a few points in their favor. This both saves you the embarassment of trollspotting a post that's not a troll and is less gratifying to an actual troll. Replies that get posted after a trollspotter's appearance are worth triple.

Finally, I'd like to point out that K5 is not being overrun by trolls. Most of the slashdot trolls who post here regularly do so because they like the site. The cease-fire between Rusty and the Troll High Council may have expired, but we're far from active hostilities.

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Poll
Is this story a troll?
o Yes 12%
o No 22%
o Maybe 10%
o Everything by Shoeboy is a troll 54%

Votes: 118
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o trhurler
o Also by shoeboy


Display: Sort:
Detecting and Dealing With Trolls on K5 | 50 comments (37 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
I Don't Get It (4.16 / 24) (#3)
by tudlio on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 04:56:47 PM EST

What's the big deal about trolls? Who cares if you get suckered, as long as you express your opinion reasonably, eloquently and with a sufficient seasoning of humility?

So you waste a little time. So the troll gets to feel superior. So your online reputation might drop a little. Is there any lasting harm done?

Seems like there's a lot more effort expended on the topic than its worth.


insert self-deprecatory humor here
amen! (3.66 / 6) (#14)
by xriso on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 06:43:58 PM EST

I was about to post the same thing! I think one of the reasons may be trying to ruin the troll's fun. Perhaps they think that for one person to have a good time, others cannot.

In the end, we see that only intentional trolls are called bad and unintentional ones are just controversial.
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]

The big deal is that (4.60 / 10) (#15)
by gauntlet on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 06:52:20 PM EST

A lack of humility is what makes trolls' victims walk into the trap, and also what allows them to be injured by it. The only good word I can think of for it is hubris. Trolls seek to exploit hubris.

Those that aren't proud will either respond more reservedly, or will feel no shame at having been deceived.

In fact, a good troll would probably recognize that a conversation, such as this one, on what should be done to reduce the problem of trolls is further evidence of the effectiveness of their attacks.

The reason that so much effort is expended in response to trolls is that, unlike in tragedies, the heros aren't silenced and seek to defend themselves from further injury.

"It is difficult to catch a black cat in a dark room. Especially if there is no cat there." - Confucius
[ Parent ]

Hubris (3.75 / 8) (#17)
by John Milton on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 07:52:07 PM EST

Yes, that's why trolling is so easy on slashdot. Slasher's are full of it. Half of them are teenage boys pretending like they know how to program. Nothing spells easy target better than a hacker wannabe spouting off about obi wan and "use the source." Quite frankly, I don't feel sorry for them.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
I refuse to respond to this obvious troll (nt) (1.00 / 2) (#38)
by tralfamadore on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 08:17:21 AM EST

;)

[ Parent ]
Why do people troll? (2.33 / 12) (#6)
by Lover's Arrival, The on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 05:12:46 PM EST

I just don't understand it at all. What pleasure can someone get from duping others? From riling them up and decieving them? I think it shows a very immature attitude.

I have bitten on some trolls on slashdot I think, including one by this ktb. I don't think he is very good at all. I suppose he was good enough to get me, but I was a newbie then.

Now I think I am a bit better at spotting them. Shoeboy is right though, just ignore them and they go away.

--Anticipation of a New Lover's Arrival, The

Power (4.33 / 3) (#10)
by SIGFPE on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 05:45:50 PM EST

What pleasure can someone get from duping others? From riling them up and decieving them?
Power. The Power to manipulate other people's feelings and actions. There's also the pleasure in feeling superior to other people who are so easily manipulated but I guess that's just another aspect of Power. If you don't get a kick out of exercising Power that probably makes you unusual - humans love to have power, even over small things.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
Lover's Arrival, The (4.14 / 7) (#21)
by driptray on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 08:21:47 PM EST

What pleasure can someone get from duping others?

What pleasure indeed!


--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]
Why I'm sure I don't know what you are implying (1.83 / 6) (#24)
by Lover's Arrival, The on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 08:56:31 PM EST

My opinions may be controversial on slashdot, but I have never trolled. That would just be low!

--Anticipation of a New Lover's Arrival, The
[ Parent ]

manipulating tears (2.75 / 4) (#11)
by mami on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 05:58:03 PM EST

sob stories are designed to provoke sympathy. The difference is that the posters of ... sob stories are seeking to share. Troll posters seek to manipulate.

My tears are famous for being very manipulative... :-)

And shoeboy's story makes me want to cry... (out of joy). I finally got it, the trolly thingy !

So, he managed to manipulate my mind and incited me to respond emotionally. That makes him a ... oops. ... Nah, not really..

+1, good article for the newbie. Thanks.

Writing (4.00 / 11) (#13)
by ucblockhead on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 06:18:33 PM EST

I'd much rather read a well-written troll than a mediocre comment playing to the common opinion.

What drove me out of slashdot was not the real trolls, it was the hot-grits spammers and the millions of "l1nux rools! I'd like to see a beowulf cluster of those." posts.


-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

Funny (3.00 / 7) (#19)
by shoeboy on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 08:09:00 PM EST

What drove me out of slashdot was CmdrTaco and Michael Sims.

--Shoeboy
No more trolls!
[ Parent ]
Oh stop (2.60 / 5) (#25)
by John Milton on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 10:10:37 PM EST

If you don't quit this, I'm going to cry. You bring back fond memories. CmdrTaco and Michael were nothing. JonKatz. Need I say more. I don't care what anyone says. That man is the greatest troll who ever lived. It's sad that he doesn't realise it and use his powers for good. *sigh*


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
Indeed. (4.33 / 3) (#23)
by interiot on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 08:54:21 PM EST

Indeed. To be able to detect and dissect a troll is to be less susceptible to those who knowingly bend the truth to become better known. To do this well takes practice.

[ Parent ]
first beowulf! (3.00 / 1) (#48)
by Ender Ryan on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 12:59:23 PM EST

first beowulf!

Thank you!

Shoeboy

; ) Oh man, I'm so sorry, I just couldn't help it.

On a more serious note, the thing that bugs me about Slashdot is not the "Beowulf Pistus" posts, it's when people post the huge porn stories, over and over and over and over... When I read Slashdot, I don't even see the "Firstus Pistus" posts anymore, it's like my brain just filters them out for me ; )


-
Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!


[ Parent ]

What causes me to lose hope... (2.50 / 6) (#16)
by SvnLyrBrto on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 07:45:54 PM EST

Is that people STILL fall for known trolls. Well *after* they've been outed.

Hell... people over at slashdot are falling for troll IMPOSTORS now!!! About a month ago or so, I ventured back over to slashdot for some article or another, and saw another "jon p ericson" post... I thought spiralx had retired it long ago so I looked more closer, and it turned out to be "jon ericson" (no middle initial), with a uid in the 200K+ range.... AND PEOPLE WERE STILL FALLING FOR IT!!! Even here, awhile back a bunch of people fell for an anagram: "eric jonson".

Troll accounts, having been caught, admit that they're bogus... people still fall for them. They post the fact that the account is a troll in their profile... people still fall for it. They put it IN THEIR SIG!!! People still bite.

Ugh.


john

Imagine all the people...

Speaking of losing hope (3.75 / 4) (#18)
by shoeboy on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 08:01:16 PM EST

Umm, that's cause most readers don't recognize account names, don't browse user info and don't spend enough time on the site to recognize the posting styles of the various trolls.

Just relax. If you browse in threaded mode, you don't have to read responses to trolls if you don't want to.

--Shoeboy
No more trolls!
[ Parent ]
Errrm (2.00 / 1) (#33)
by spiralx on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 06:28:04 AM EST

The "Jon Erikson" account has a uid of around 190K IIRC, and I've never seen any imposters... and I do still use it every so often when I feel the urge. I've got four troll accounts, and I tend to switch from one to the other depending on how I feel at the time...

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

Trollspotting (4.33 / 6) (#20)
by interiot on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 08:10:56 PM EST

Does the post attack a belief held by a majority of the k5 community with clearly spurious logic and bogus claims? ... The more easilly refuted an offensive attack is, the better. You'll get lots of angry responses. ... All responses are worth double points if the post contains ... [an] obvious hint.

Trolls get triple points if they get modded up for a while. And quadruple points if the readishership STILL doesn't recognize a troll once there are five highly rated rebuttals that all replay the same party line.

So there's a fourth thing that you should do about trolls: be smart enough to detect them. That doesn't need to be said on Kuro5hin, but it's something slashdotters need to know. That particular post was at +4 at one point. Not to gloat or anything.

Mod-fest records (3.00 / 1) (#43)
by mattw on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 11:44:49 AM EST

That's funny, because I just ran across what may be the most-moderated /. post I've ever seen. 26? And all that just to bring it to a 0, Troll.


[Scrapbooking Supplies]
[ Parent ]
Hah! (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by Ender Ryan on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 12:48:57 PM EST

"That doesn't need to be said on Kuro5hin, but it's something slashdotters need to know."

What is the obsession with knocking Slashdot on K5? Do you really think the K5 "community" is superior?

How utterly ridiculous...

Look at the articles that get modded all the way to the main page. Just in 2 weeks we had an article that was nothing but an attack towards to creationists, it didn't even consider the fact that some people believe in creationism through evolution, it was not well thought out, and the author wasn't even informed about the issue. Then, we had shoeboy's recent article that was nothing more than a few pages of slashdot bashing.

Granted, shoeboy's article was not well received, but it did make it to the front page.

If you feel superior in any way to anyone, feeling the need to say so often indicates that you are incorrect...

That said, I really like K5, and shoeboy is correct in this article.


-
Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!


[ Parent ]

Trolls are good (4.00 / 11) (#26)
by Jive Billy on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 10:20:53 PM EST

Though I'm not really a troll (more like a devil's advocate sometimes), I think some of my posts are often mistaken as trollish in nature simply because they do what most trolls do -- post comments or stories that go against the widely-held belief of the community.

Here at K5 such a post apparently could take the form, "The war on drugs is a good thing!" On /. they could be "Why is everyone picking on RIAA? They help musicians!"

I'd argue that this type of troll is of huge benifit to everyone. They cause people to defend their positions and beliefs -- and can often reveal shaky ground therein.

I've often noticed that the people who complain the most about trolls are the people that hold religious-like convictions (based upon blinding faith or one-sided facts). Could it be because the troll forces them to defend their position; a position that isn't quite the firm ground they'd like to claim?

Did you read the article? (3.66 / 3) (#34)
by vectro on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 10:10:57 AM EST

The whole point of the story is that trolling is not holding a minority viewpoint. Trolling is done to get a reaction.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
insofar as trolling is playing the devils advocate (5.00 / 1) (#35)
by teasmoke on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 12:30:07 PM EST

It is a good thing to expose flawed arguments in a discussion. Insofar as that's what trolling is about, I won't criticise it. But people tend to get angry when denuded of their beliefs-as-opinions. If a pure devil's advocate doesn't keep quite calm and gentle in his posts, it very quickly becomes a flamewar. While the Socratic method and such help the discussion, a flamewar destroys it. Such trolls as are at all trying to be incendiary are up to no good.

Trolling-as-devil's-advocate may help the discussion, but any interest in getting a rise out of others undoes that.


teasmoke

[ Parent ]
What's the `Troll High Council'? (2.37 / 8) (#28)
by Estanislao Martínez on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 12:08:55 AM EST

Simple, just use the same set of criteria that the Troll High Council uses [...]

Is there such a thing? What kind of lameness is this?

--em

troll high council (1.00 / 2) (#46)
by troll on Mon Jun 18, 2001 at 11:32:32 PM EST

hey i fought the troll high council once!! that was when i was tenth level and i wanted to get my cool sword and dave (the dm) made a dungeon where i went in and fought the troll high council.

they thought they were all hot and sh*t cause they had the name "high council" but they were just lame like all the other trolls and people only thought they were cool cause they sounded important cause of the name. but they turned out to by sorta lame not like the blue dragon i fought. that was tough but fortunately i had a antielectric armor!!! anyway your right they were lame cause they just sat around and talked about how great they were and didnt even do anything!

so the troll high council is dead or i guess im dthe new troll high council cause i killed the old one so thats me!!! if anyone else says they are they troll high council tell them that they lie and theyll have to kill my first and i have a +4 sword!!!

i rock!!!

My sig:

-----trolls arms just grow back!!!
[ Parent ]

The only thing needed for the trolls (1.33 / 9) (#29)
by anthrem on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 12:17:08 AM EST

this is my anti-troll device there are many like it, but this one is mine -1


- Slashdot is for the simpleminded -
Malleus Trollificeaum (1.50 / 8) (#36)
by Blarney on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 02:45:54 PM EST

A simple procedure for catching trolls:

  1. Get the K5 leaders to delete the suspected troll's account.
  2. If the person creates another account and comes back to K5, they're DEFINITELY a troll.


Oh, I get it. :-) (3.00 / 1) (#45)
by magney on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 11:38:21 PM EST

So if she weighs the same as a duck... then she's made of wood... and therefore...

Do I look like I speak for my employer?
[ Parent ]

K5's mascot and trolls (4.20 / 10) (#37)
by flikx on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 05:18:46 AM EST

Just look at the mascot for K5: the Tacoma Narrows Bridge .. at the time of one of the most famous engineering disasters.

Do I even need to point out the relations between bridges and trolling? It's obviously a subliminal message.

By default, Kuro5hin attracts trolls.
--
One future, two choices. Oppose them or let them destroy us.
Troll chasing has gone too far (4.71 / 7) (#39)
by rkenski on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:11:35 AM EST

I have read many things about trolls and I still can't realize what is wrong with them. One or two of my /. pots were considered trolls, but my sincere goal was to share opinion and information. Fortunately, people here in K5 understood what I meant and high-rated them.
Some offensive posts are obviously bad, but you just don´t feel the "need to reply" to them. They are not a problem, just ignore them.
The problem is that the fear (or angry) of trolls has gone too far. Calling any post a "troll" is an easy way of getting rid of it without the need to give an intelligent or proper answer. It is just like saying that any idea is nazi. It is an easy and efficient way of winning a discussion. And is the most stupid way of doing it.
A lot of good and insightful posts are considered trolls just because they are slightly polemic. If we continue with this troll chasing, in a few years we will have a lot of conservative discussion sites. No new things, no revolutionary ideas, just the same old stuff...

About calling a Troll a Troll: (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by neuneu2K on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 08:48:42 AM EST

Well, even if it is a troll, calling it a troll should not stop the thread.
Indeed, it would be worst then applying godwin's law !

Well known trolls can sometimes better defend a point of view then rabid fanatics

PS :Are you sure there is such a fear of trolls. Your own comments have been high rated, even by people that may have thought you were a troll.

- "And machine code, which lies beneath systems ? Ah, that is to do with the Old Testament, and is talmudic and cabalistic..." - Umberto Eco
[ Parent ]
I find this funny (3.66 / 3) (#41)
by Tachys on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 02:48:51 AM EST

Does the post attack a belief held by a majority of the K5 community with clearly spurious logic and bogus claims?

I find this funny because it seems to assume that anyone who disagrees with the majority have logical reasons for doing so.



You're being sarcastic, right? (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by magney on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 11:35:15 PM EST

As intelligent as the kuro5hin readership may be, we are still human beings. We all have our biases, and it is indeed possible that the majority of us may be mistaken about something. :-) Which is why shoeboy specified "with clearly spurious logic and bogus claims".

Even then you may be dealing with someone who is merely ignorant of the counterarguments to the position, without being aware of how ignorant they are, and perhaps so lost in their own bias that they can't see how spurious their logic is. But then, the only way to tell the difference bewteen such a person and a troll is to catch a comment from them in another article indicating that they know better...

Do I look like I speak for my employer?
[ Parent ]

there green!!! (1.20 / 5) (#42)
by troll on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 06:03:59 PM EST

its easy to detect trolls cause there green! (unless they have bitch-ass magic which makes them some other color.)

i could tell ya how to deal with them but i wont cause im a troll and i dont want you "dealing" with me (hahaha)!!! you could just give me all your gold and well call it even and i wont bug you and stuff. thats what i did to these elves and it was really funny cause they had to do it cause i had a +4 sword and they were sucky little third level elves. hahahaha!

my sig starts here:

-----trolls arms just grow back!!!

Slashdot makes you troll (none / 0) (#49)
by davidmb on Tue Jul 03, 2001 at 09:51:21 AM EST

I never considered myself a troll, but over time I found that posting honest, thought-out opinions on Slashdot just leads to karma-loss.

As I got modded down more and more, I lost the will to play ball and began to semi-troll.

Now I always post on -1 and there's not a lot of point. I suspect a lot of people went down that route.

The K5 system seems to be a lot more tolerant of different viewpoints and has a much more intelligent feel to it (at the moment...)
־‮־
Slashdot trollers are Microsoft shills (none / 0) (#50)
by bediger on Tue Jul 03, 2001 at 12:36:05 PM EST

I haven't been reading kuro5hin.org long enough to have a feel for their trolls, but I have this distinct feeling that slashdot trolls are actually paid Microsoft shills.

Think about it: the slashdot stories that draw the most *BSD is dead/hot grits/Natalie Portman/Frist Post trolls are the stories that make points that are seriously damaging to Microsoft. Microsoft keeps extensive intelligence on any press they get. Microsoft has shilled in even trivial on-line forums in the past.

While it's not incontrovertible evidence, I'd have to say that it's more than mere Conspiracy Theory. And I say this as a person who has trolled deliberately and brutally on usenet in the past.


-- I am Spartacus.
Detecting and Dealing With Trolls on K5 | 50 comments (37 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
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