On trolls

Tanta writes:

I cannot make anyone stop responding to pointless or nuisance comments. You have to want to restrain yourself, because you understand that the only way to get rid of them is to fail to give them the attention they want. A “troll” is not just someone whose comments you disagree with, or even just a nasty or badly-worded comment. A troll is someone who does not, under any possible set of circumstances, care what you think about him or his comments. He merely wants attention. Negative attention will do. The more you disagree with him, the more he is able to tell himself that he is persecuted and victimized or the only voice of reason or one of the elite few who has the God’s-eye view of the world or whatever his current delusion is. If he isn’t merely a narcissist who thrives on feeling attacked, he’s just some putz who enjoys irritating other people. Therefore, you “feed” the troll by paying any attention to him at all. It does not matter what you say in response. Any response to a troll just encourages the troll.

You can automate the ignoring of trolls with a kill file. Daniel Martin has written a script that provides a kill file for scienceblogs.com. You need Greasemonkey and Firefox to use it.

Comments

  1. #1 Vagueofgodalming
    January 30, 2008

    I think some commenters feel it’s important to rebut trolls for the sake of notional third party lurkers who may be led astray (or possibly because if a troll’s comments are allowed to stand uncontradicted they get validated by some weird unwritten silence-implies-consent rule?), so it’s probably worth adding that most of us can spot a troll without having it pointed out in detail.

    The Greasemonkey thing is helpful but not for everybody. Not everybody has Firefox or the relevant user privileges to install it; not everyone has the confidence with computers to just go ahead and install such a thing.

  2. #2 Robert
    January 30, 2008

    Tim wrote:

    Daniel Martin has written a script that provides a kill file for scienceblogs.com.

    Presuming you haven’t already kill-filed me and thus can read this, where would one find this script?

  3. #3 Dave Briggs
    January 30, 2008

    Sorry about the troll problem. You have the right to not publish comments don’t you? If I am ever a troll please let me know and just tell me to go back into the troll cave! Maybe you could try that too?
    Dave Briggs :~)

  4. #4 Tim Lambert
    January 30, 2008

    Robert:

    >Presuming you haven’t already kill-filed me and thus can read this, where would one find this script?

    Oops, there was meant to be a link to it there. Fixed.

  5. #5 Cthulhu
    January 30, 2008

    “A troll is someone who does not, under any possible set of circumstances, care what you think about him or his comments.”

    This is actually opposite to what a troll is. A troll is precisely someone who wants you to get emotional about their comments and them as the poster of that comment. They are trying to provoke a response, as many responses as possible.

    Unfortunately the term troll is thrown around today and people use it incorrectly to refer to anyone online who is annoying. However trolling is an intentional act, wheras many of the annoying people online are doing it naturally.

    This is nitpicky I know, but I think it’s reasonably interesting for people to know what trolling actually is and why “dont feed the troll” is the best option.

    I’ll give the wikipedia definition as it describes what a troll is very well:
    “An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, with the intention of baiting other users into an emotional response.”

    A skillful troll typically spends a lot of time designing the precise wording of the post, making sure it is subtle enough, and sometimes inserting hidden inside-jokes for those who figure it out at the expense of those who don’t, etc. They will post on topics that they know are contraversial to the audience they are posting to (so a post arguing for gun control on a gun supporter forum for example). Often they will have very good knowledge of the topic in order to exploit the audience to the max.

    Here is a particularly good example of a troll. This author appears dumb as a plank of wood but they actually know their domain very well and so generate one of the best trolls I have seen. Just read over all the incensed replies it caused:

    http://www.adequacy.org/stories/2001.12.2.42056.2147.html

  6. #6 Sortition
    January 30, 2008

    The problem with the kill file approach is that it kills only the troll’s comments and does not kill responses to the troll. Therefore, even if only one or two commenters do respond to the troll, the disruption to the thread is still considerable.

    A more effective solution to the troll issue is to turn reading troll comments into an opt-in activity rather than an opt-out activity. Disemvoweling is one such mechanism. It makes reading troll comments possible to whoever is convinced that what they are saying is valuable, but prevents them from commanding the attention of those who are not interested.

    Also, disemvowelling (or any opt-in mechanism) could be applied in a progressive manner so that reading the troll becomes more and more difficult as the troll makes more and more comments to a single thread: the first comment (or the first 200 words) should not be tempered with at all. The next comment (or next 200 words) should have all ‘u’s removed. Next, the ‘i’s are removed as well, and so on until no vowels remain. This way, if the troll has something of importance to say, it can still do it, as long as it does so succinctly.

  7. #7 Hank Roberts
    January 30, 2008

    In the beginning, there was ASCII:
    The Usenet Troll Song
    http://www.gingicat.org/jacob/troll.html

  8. #8 SG
    January 30, 2008

    has anyone else noticed how much nicer it is around here lately since a certain Troll who shall remain nameless (lest he be invoked) was slain? I don’t think I ever got around to saying “Thanks, Tim!” for that, so: “Thanks Tim!”.

  9. #9 The spelling troll
    January 30, 2008

    It’s i) “controversial” and ii) “tampered”, you maniacs. Otherwise carry right on.

  10. #10 Dano
    January 30, 2008

    “To oppose something is to maintain it“.

    One cannot lump all trolls into the bottom of one barrel. Surely trolls disrupt threads and my other incarnation ignores them and they go away. Dano uses them for a purpose. We must remember that the sum total of trolls for, say, AGW is a very useful number – they got nothin’, and their continually providing evidence of such is underutilized, IDHO.

    Best,

    D

  11. #11 Dano
    January 30, 2008

    So I’m kinda old school (COBOL/NOMAD (latter totally useless I know)) and I can sorta read this js text, but I’m not much for OS, so where exactly do I install it in FF and how?

    Best,

    D

  12. #12 Hank Roberts
    January 30, 2008

    May depend on which OS you’re using for Firefox.
    Sketchily, looking at my OSX, trying to remember:
    Basically First install Greasemonkey extension (“add-on”)
    Get killfile from http://userscripts.org/
    http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/4107
    “Install This Script”
    Then under /Tools
    /Greasemonkey “enabled” should be checked
    Then “Manage User Scripts”

  13. #13 Marion Delgado
    January 31, 2008

    Trolls live in Norway. As such, they are in a greater condition to understand the myth of global warming better than the likes of you all, given they can directly experience that the ice sheet covering Norway grows greater every year.

    Of course, it would be too much to expect you to drop the invective and pretend you can debate and discuss rational points rationally. I stroke the silky hair of my troll doll and wish for goat meat.

  14. #14 Dano
    January 31, 2008

    Sheesh, too easy. Perfect – thank you Hank.

    Best,

    D

  15. #15 Hank Roberts
    January 31, 2008

    Dano, note that you’ll get a popup noting when a new killfile script is available. As with anything clickable, make sure you’re seeing it from a page where you expect this to happen (you’re using killfile) and look twice, before clicking. The scripts aren’t page-specific, so once you’re using killfile you’ll see it’s available at more and more sites over time.

    As with anything clickable, verify, then trust.

  16. #16 bi
    January 31, 2008

    “Trolls live in Norway. As such, they are in a greater condition to understand the myth of global warming”

    Yeah, a “rational argument”. Seems that this “argument” is only “rational” in Norway (or perhaps even not). I wonder why?

    “I think some commenters feel it’s important to rebut trolls for the sake of notional third party lurkers who may be led astray”

    That’s what I think, but since trolls and trolls, I try to expend the minimal energy I need in order to rebut them, instead of writing long detailed paragraphs which our Third-Party Lurkers aren’t going to read anyway.

  17. #17 Dano
    January 31, 2008

    Understood, Hank. Many thanks. Just needed someone to hold my hand and extend my pointy finger. Soon I’ll be a happy man.

    Best,

    D

  18. #18 Kilo
    February 3, 2008

    If I am ever a troll please let me know and just tell me to go back into the troll cave! Maybe you could try that too? Dave Briggs :~)

    Posted by: Dave Briggs | January 30, 2008 4:50 PM

    Don’t worry Dave, just endorse whatever the blog author does, avoid questioning or criticism of popular memes and keep independent thinking to a minimum.

    These will ensure you are not regarded as a troll for voicing opposing view or criticisms on a blog which deals almost exclusively with leveling opposing views at critics.

    A suggestion as bizarre as LGF’s insistance that unlike their front page, they don’t want to see anything racist written in their comments.

    Perhaps next we could get a tutorial on how to crochet a doily. Keep up the how to be spectacularly gay tips.

  19. #19 bi
    February 4, 2008

    Tell me, Kilo, what’s so “independent” about regurgitating right-wing talking points?

  20. #20 climatepatrol
    February 4, 2008

    Honestly, thank you Tim for giving a “denialist” / “creationist” so much attention as to not regarding me as a “troll” for quoting contrarian peer-reviewed papers and for quoting from mainstream scientific historian Naomi Oreskes’s essay which deals exactly with the thread topic. This gives me hope for contineous democracy and freedom of speech. As a skeptic who has lots of questions and seeks the truth, I can thus live well with comments like that.

  21. #22 bi
    February 4, 2008

    What? Naomi Oreskes was talking about killfiles for trolls?

  22. #23 bi
    February 4, 2008

    And what do killfiles have to do with “democracy and freedom of speech” anyway, mister?

    Last I knew, if you don’t like things here, you’re perfectly free to set up your own blog.

    You post here not to test the limits of “free speech”, but just because you want to get attention, right, climatepatrol?

  23. #24 bi
    February 4, 2008

    (Oops, I forgot you already _have_ your own blog. What more “free speech” do you want? What you want isn’t free speech, it’s attention.)

  24. #25 climatepatrol
    February 4, 2008

    Sure bi, but definitely not the kind of attention that self proclaimed vixens seek.

  25. #26 dhogaza
    February 4, 2008

    As a skeptic who has lots of questions and seeks the truth

    Strangely, you seek the truth by only referencing pointers to science denialists on your website.

    What’s the deal, here? “And God said, on the eighth day, let their be global warming caused by magic inputs and I’ll also fake CO2 physics in order to test your faith”?

  26. #27 climatepatrol
    February 5, 2008

    Which CO2 physics?CO2 climate sensitivity 0.75 by Shaviv and Veizer (2003) or rather 4.5 by Wetherald et al.(2001)because it is within the IPCC range? See one of the referenced ‘pointers’ (definitely not a science denialist): http://members.aol.com/bpl1960/ClimateSensitivity.html.

    My point is, there are lots of questions I think scientists should be open to, and not be to quick to judge them coming from denialist and troll minds.

    But I also understand that it can be tiresome to explain basic physics time and again. No problem. The site I linked which has real denialists commenting there is Oekologismus.de. But one of the things I like about it: There I can see AGW scientists explaining the basics of physics to ‘deniers’. And it is more of a political site. But if I want to dig deeper into physics, I go to realclimate. If I want to hear both sides of scientists equally, I go to climateaudit, which is not censured like realclimate.

    Deltoid by the way is a site recommended by our Swiss IPCC alarmist Professor Stocker. Thank you for your attention.

  27. #28 bi
    February 5, 2008

    climatepatrol:

    You “hear” both sides equally, and then on your blog you merely pump out denialist links mindlessly?

    dhogaza:

    “What’s the deal, here? `And God said, on the eighth day, let their be global warming caused by magic inputs and I’ll also fake CO2 physics in order to test your faith’?”

    I think God created Galileo so that science cranks can have a handy rhetorical trope to whack people with.

  28. #29 Kilo
    February 5, 2008

    Last I knew, if you don’t like things here, you’re perfectly free to set up your own blog.
    Posted by: bi | February 4, 2008 6:54 AM

    You are. Just like the nimrod who runs climateaudit did. Then if you choose to dedicate that blog to criticism of others while encouraging your devotees to ignoring any counter criticism of yours, your blog can look as gay as this does.

  29. #30 guthrie
    February 5, 2008

    Kilo- “Gay” is an insult? Haahaahahaa.

  30. #31 Eli Rabett
    February 5, 2008

    Oooo. . . climate paTrolling says

    Which CO2 physics?CO2 climate sensitivity 0.75 by Shaviv and Veizer (2003) or rather 4.5 by Wetherald et al.(2001)because it is within the IPCC range?

    both of which are outside the IPCC AR4 estimate.

    This value is estimated, by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report as “likely to be in the range 2 to 4.5°C with a best estimate of about 3°C, and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C.”

    The TAR had it between 1.5 and 4.5 with a most likely value of ~3 also.

    Try again, that was pretty weak CP.

  31. #32 climatepatrol
    February 6, 2008

    Mr. Rabett, well known in Cybersphere. Do you mind if I copy this typical example of an indoctrinated response?

    Anyway. Case closed.

  32. #33 bi
    February 6, 2008

    “Anyway. Case closed.”

    Feel the open-mindedness of climatepatrol, people!

  33. #34 climatepatrol
    February 6, 2008

    And since I am already considered as a troll, I stop being diplomatic (whatever I say is turned against me anyway): The IPCC is not a scientific institution but the arm of the U.N. I know for a fact that not all renown scientists, especially not Shaviv and Veizer, agree with the answer of Mr. Rabett. If you are forced to ease out some scientists in order to portray a consensus, if you need to marginalize people with honest questions and doubts as “trolls” regarding the right balance of such a complex set of questions, that’s in my humble opinion the beginning of the end of science and the beginning of totalitarism. Because of numerous signs of a new rising totalitarian world system, you geet these so-called deniers. I am sorry to say that.

    Sincerely,
    Climatepatrol

  34. #35 sod
    February 6, 2008

    Mr. Rabett, well known in Cybersphere. Do you mind if I copy this typical example of an indoctrinated response?

    huch???

    Climatepatrol, Eli just gave you the IPCC range. and the best estimate.
    there seems to be a minor disagreement among scientist about the CO2 sensitivity.
    while there are a lot of crazy people (oekologismus.de being a prime example) who deny the existence of the effect altogether.

  35. #36 sod
    February 6, 2008

    The IPCC is not a scientific institution but the arm of the U.N. I know for a fact that not all renown scientists, especially not Shaviv and Veizer, agree with the answer of Mr. Rabett. If you are forced to ease out some scientists in order to portray a consensus, if you need to marginalize people with honest questions and doubts as “trolls” regarding the right balance of such a complex set of questions, that’s in my humble opinion the beginning of the end of science and the beginning of totalitarism.

    huch???

    Rahmsdorf has written a nice reply in this article about the AGU statement on temperature rise:

    Fact is that that all represented governments (including the US) have approved the IPCC Summary for Policy Makers line by line at a week-long session in Paris (which I attended as expert on the German government delegation) – not because they love global warming or are all corrupt, but because the scientific evidence is simply overwhelming. If the government experts from, say, the US, Saudi Arabia or China would have found any flaws in the arguments or conclusions, they would have gladly watered down the report.

    it does explain a lot, that those “disagreeing” experts couldn t make a convincing argument even among governments HOSTILE to the IPCC results.

  36. #37 sod
    February 6, 2008

    sorry, forgot the link. the whole things is worth reading…

    http://tinyurl.com/yslj8u

    (Earth Scientists Express Rising Concern Over Warming

    By Andrew C. Revkin on dotearth)

  37. #38 climatepatrol
    February 6, 2008

    Thanks sod for all that. I do appreciate that. I’ll read all this including the link with comment thread. The concern is certainly justified. Re Oekologismus: Those so-called “crazy” people know what it is to live under a totalitarian regime and they are allergic against any sign of new fascistoid tendencies. Here is one example:
    http://www.mcgilldaily.com/view.php?aid=6970

  38. #39 dhogaza
    February 6, 2008

    Those so-called “crazy” people know what it is to live under a totalitarian regime and they are allergic against any sign of new fascistoid tendencies.

    This is akin to becoming an HIV denialist because you don’t like wearing a condom. “I don’t like condoms, this proves science to be wrong!”

  39. #40 bi
    February 6, 2008

    “Feel the open-mindedness of climatepatrol, people!” –me

    “And since I am already considered as a troll, I stop being diplomatic” –climatepatrol

    Hahahahahahahaha. When was the last time you were truly _being_ open-minded anyway? When you mindlessly propagated denialist “reports” on your blog? When you called your Swiss Professor an “alarmist”?

    “they are allergic against any sign of new fascistoid tendencies.” –climatepatrol

    “This is akin to becoming an HIV denialist because you don’t like wearing a condom.” –dhogaza

    As The Editors might have said: Condoms are the compulsory _Mein Kampf_ of Liberal Fascism. And carbon credits are the Befreiungen of Liberal Fascism.

  40. #41 etbnc
    February 6, 2008

    I find no value in trying to distinguish the varieties of Troll Spectrum Behavior (as mentioned recently at Zuska’s blog). It doesn’t matter to me whether attention-seeking and game-playing behaviors stem from conscious or un/subconscious motivation. The consequences are pretty much the same, so my (lack of) response is pretty much the same.

    I do think it’s important to demonstrate mature interactions instead. That fosters situations in which social learning can occur. But that doesn’t require feeding attention appetites.

    Thanks for sharing this information about the Greasemonkey toolkit.

    Cheers

  41. #42 Dr Zen
    February 7, 2008

    “Troll”, n., annoying wanker on other side.
    “Friend”, n., annoying wanker on my side.

    Killfiles are for people who never learned just to ignore what they don’t like. It’s not like you get bitten or anything.

  42. #43 John Mashey
    February 7, 2008

    Killfiles are good, especially in blogs where the posters’ name is at the end. Definite time saver, avoids starting to red something long, thinking “junk” and getting to end and seeing a well-known name and wishing the name had been at the front.

  43. #44 z
    February 7, 2008

    That’s twice for Shaviv mentions.

    “Cosmic Rays Are Not the Cause of Climate Change, Scientists Say
    American Geophysical Union
    22.01.2004

    Eleven Earth and space scientists say that a recent paper attributing most climate change on Earth to cosmic rays is incorrect and based on questionable methodology. Writing in the January 27 issue of Eos, published by the American Geophysical Union, Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and colleagues in
    Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States challenge the cosmic ray hypothesis.

    The data on cosmic rays and temperature so far in the past are extremely uncertain, he says. Further, their reconstruction of ancient cosmic rays is based on only 50 meteorites, and most other experts interpret their significance in a very different way, he says. He
    adds that two curves presented in the article show an apparent statistical correlation only because the authors adjusted the data, in one case by 40 million years. In short, say the authors of the Eos article, Shaviv
    and Veizer have not shown that there is any correlation between cosmic rays and climate. … Even if their analysis were methodologically correct, their work applied to time scales of several million years. The current climate warming has, however, occurred during just a hundred years, for which completely different mechanisms are relevant,
    he says. For example, over millions of years, the shifting of continents influences climate, while over hundreds of thousands of years, small changes in Earth’s orbit can initiate or terminate ice ages. But for time periods of years, decades, or centuries, these processes are irrelevant. Volcanic eruptions, changes in solar activity, and the concentration of greenhouse gases, as well as
    internal oscillations of the climate system, are crucial on this scale. ”

    And yes, I have chased down the primary publications by Shaviv and by his critics above, and yes, they do seem to have a point. Over and above the obvious question of how a 140 million year periodicity can explain the past century.

  44. #45 TCO
    February 10, 2008

    ctulthu: That’s not an artful troll…that you showed. That was completely over the top and unsubtle. Only the most mid of middle brows(one who listens to NPR or reads this blog, and thinks that it makes them sophisticated) would think that was a good troll.

    See, son. Listen to the master.

  45. #47 TCO
    February 11, 2008

    I see a lot of myself in those vids.

  46. #48 Dano
    February 11, 2008

    TCO, when you’re sober you’re not a bad troll. Master? Nnnnnno. Jerel (Jim Clarke) isn’t a bad troll because he’s subtle. I wouldn’t consider you subtle.

    Best,

    D