Comment 51904

By Tybalt (registered) | Posted November 19, 2010 at 08:31:06

"I'm trying to figure out what enhancements or changes we might make to the RTH community moderation system to make it easier to "out" trolls - even the sophisticated ones - while drawing a clear distinction between trolls and legitimate contrarians making sincere arguments from evidence."

Sadly, it can't be done. I've spent now 24 years in internet communities, I spent a few years running a site about an order of magnitude larger than RTH, and very few ever rose to any significant size without the discussion being pulled apart and destroyed by trolls and garbage posts. RTH isn't quite to that size of community yet but it is approaching it, and we are beginning to see the effects.

And politics (along with sport and things we think of as boys' culture) is the absolute worst topic on which to try to have a civil discussion on the internet.

Only one strategy I have seen in those 24 years has _ever_ worked to control trolling, and that is strong leadership willing to simply ban people permanently and immediately for troll behavior, removing all such writing immediately even where a ban isn't engaged, and being utterly unapologetic about it. Such a system will engage inevitable distractions from time to time, especially when a persistent troll raises the ante after a ban (it always happens, and I've had good success dealing with the civil authorities to help enforce). But it works.

Moderation can't do the job, sadly. It's almost always too distributed and powerless, and there are always soft-hearted people (I tend to this view myself too often) who want to "give someone a chance" or dislike what they view as "censorship". Also, downvote systems tend to be misused, as others have pointed out here, as a proxy for "agree/disagree", rather than as a reward/punishment for good/bad discussion.

But people who spend a lot of time in internet communities, like site administrators, know trolling instantly, and also know that people who spend their time trolling never, ever also make positive contributions. Ryan I believe mentioned "borderline trolls" above - I am firmly of the view that no such person exists, or ever has existed. There are narcissists, but I consider that quite distinct from trolling.

It takes a strong personal commitment to "being mean" to clear out the trolls, but sadly it is the only effective way I have ever seen of removing trolls from a community discussion.

Permalink | Context

Events Calendar

There are no upcoming events right now.
Why not post one?

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools