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


chris said...

Whence the expression "don't feed the trolls!" Don't respond to or get into arguments with people who are posting with the express purpose of making you mad.

Borrowing from xkcd again, this is typically how those being trolled respond to the trolling comments (not knowing they're being trolled, of course): http://xkcd.com/386/

chris said...

Unrelated to this particular post, but I thought I'd post it somewhere: http://www.crichton-official.com/speech-whyspeculate.html

He talks about non-political speculation too, but at least for the political things, I wouldn't say it's "nobody knows the future" with the support being that they're all wrong in the end. I'd say it's "everybody intentionally, grossly (and that's an understatement) exaggerates likely effects" so they end up being wrong, but they don't care because they drew more attention and opposition/support to their cause.

Anyway, speculation seems to be in human nature just as rumors are. It's gossip, and it draws people closer together when they share "insider" information, if Psych 101 serves me well. Hmm, at least I'm certain that's true of women, but probably true of men too.