Monday, April 13, 2009

Don't Feed the Trolls

If you're a blogger don't miss Robert Stacy McCain's lesson on trolls. Stacy has already given us the wonderful How To Get a Million Hits on Your Blog lesson. Now for trolls.

Anyone with a blog has probably had their share of trolls; on this blog I've had quite a few (yeah, I'm talking to YOU!) . Usually they come in under "Anonymous" and I've addressed this issue before but again, let me say that I know some people can't post under their own names for one reason or another. But some are just cowards.

One of my Anonymous trolls, when confronted with his cowardice, said, "What does it matter who I am?" It doesn't matter who you are; it matters that you are a coward.

As RSM points out, many blogs have a registration process where you must provide your email address (which is not posted to the public) and your name. Other blogs hold your comment for approval before posting. This blog has always been open comment, even though the Anonymous posters irritate me.

I've kept the open comment policy because I have wanted to encourage all viewpoints and, during the election especially, enjoyed the debate. We had some raucous, fantastic debates here during the election! Good times!

I've only deleted one comment from this blog and that was a personal attack and was, what I thought, particularly vile in its attack. Of course, the Anonymous commenter came back and posted it again with a rebuke to me for deleting it in the first place. Then he accused me of violating his free speech.

Trolls want to take your blog and use it to spew their own ideology rather than start their own blog and hang out with their own kind. They want to take over your blog and infuse your readers with their skewed, misguided vitriolic messages. I even asked one Anonymous commenter once, "Why do you even come read this blog when you so obviously disagree with EVERYTHING I say?" And of course, it's because he wants to take it over, monopolize my time as I defend myself, and spread his own message.

Being a troll is not the same thing as the commenter who simply disagrees with you. That's an entirely legitimate position. Trolls have an agenda.

My policy since January has been, for the most part, to ignore these trolls. When I found that I was spending too much time responding to trolls that I wasn't actually blogging anymore, I changed my policy and decided to ignore them. Every now and then I get the urge to punk-smack some of them and argue back, but it's pointless. They don't want to hear my side, and they'll never be convinced or persuaded to my side because their purpose is to wreak havoc.

An interesting, and wonderful, phenomenon is when your regular commenters punk-smack the trolls for you. Awesomeness!

At any rate, if you try to leave a comment here one day and see the comment policy has changed, don't be shocked. It just means I'm trying to quit feeding the trolls.

Michael S. Malone also did a piece on blog commenters you might check out.

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