Wiki science/Trolls

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Trolls are anonymous users of internet services characterized by inflammatory messages and criticism. While some users find trolls to be extremely annoying, others view them as an essentially part of the process that leads towards good content being produced. They are particularly useful for challenging widely-held, but untested beliefs, as anonymous trolls are free to say what others cannot.

What not to do with trolls

Calling them as such

Trolling is rarely done accidentally. As such, telling someone they're trolling or are a troll is not likely to make them reform. Also, if by chance they weren't deliberately trolling, accusing them of trolling could very easily offend them and could make them lose their interest in contributing to Wikimedia. It will also make you look bad as well.

How to deal with trolls

Trolling is usually responded to two different ways: Preventing access by the troll, and ignoring them.

Engaging with trolls

While the manner of trolls can be infuriating at times, they obviously do still contribute valid points of view and facts at times. Engaging with trolls, particularly on controversial topics, can expose your ideas to harsh criticism. This kind of 'trial by fire' puts your beliefs to the test and only the valid ones will survive it.

Banning/blocking trolls

A 'ban trolls' policy on your wiki is very controversial. While it is thought to control 'bad trolling', it also harms 'good trolling'. Some points to consider:

  • It may discourage some trolling.
  • It may help the community to respond to trolling by knowing that it is officially frowned upon.
  • It may lead to group think - the phenomenon whereby a prevailing consensus view is not open to challenge by other users

The usual penalties for trolling are removing trollish edits, reverting all edits by the troll to a certain area (Such as discussion) or outright blocking the account/IP(s) used in the trolling.

One downside is that an overly strict policy on trolling may result in someone with a slightly abrasive manner being deemed a troll without any better cause.

Ignoring trolls

Some people favor a policy of just not responding to trollish comments, sometimes not even to remove them.

Further reading