28 September 2009

Trolling the Seas of Idiocy

Blogs with far more commenters (and by extension, readership) than mine sometimes find their comment section has degraded into a what is called a "flame war." A flame war typically begins when either an ignorant or careless commenters submits a comment which other readers find beneath the quality of the blog's accepted, though often unwritten, standard. The flamers, engaging in flaming, often quickly degrade into personal attacks on the victim's intelligence, or that of the victim's mother. Flamers often build off of each other, with little regard for the content of previous comments, frequently resulting in duplicative criticism of the victim. The flame war technically begins after the victim responds and is subsequently inundated with additional criticism, often involving a reference to the flamer's certitude that the victim's IQ is below a certain nominal level (typically 10-20). Ironically, it appears that the flamers maintain a cognitive image of themselves as the victims (citing themselves as victims of their subject's mental ineptitude).

More clever, less depressing, and altogether vastly more entertaining is the "troll." A troll may have many motives, but a common one is to start a "pitched" or "reverse" flame war in which the initial flamer, out of ignorance of the subject, becomes the subject of the flaming. The ideal blog for such a troll is one in which the subject matter requires a degree of knowledge/fluency in order to comment intelligently and for which readers generally have strong opinions. A concise example of the beginnings of a troll-trap induced reverse flame war on a grammar blog is captured perfectly by the following xkcd.com comic:

Effect an Effect