Wednesday, July 20, 2011


This probably doesn’t deserve a whole blog post, but I didn’t want to have to go and use in on a comment on every blog in the whole skeptic community.
Since I got embroiled in the Elevatorgate nontroversy, I have seen many commentors referred to as “trolls.” In my experience with internet trolls, they have never been people with strong feelings about a cause who simply disagree with others that have strong feelings. The trolls I’ve come across have always just wanted to be dicks to piss people off, and get well-meaning bloggers to freak out and rage against them.
To make sure I wasn’t defining it incorrectly, I checked with Their first definition is:

One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument
In other words, what I thought it was.
Now here’s the second definition:

One who purposely and deliberately (that purpose usually being self-amusement) starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers. He will spark of such an argument via the use of ad hominem attacks (i.e. 'you're nothing but a fanboy' is a popular phrase) with no substance or relevence to back them up as well as straw man arguments, which he uses to simply avoid addressing the essence of the issue.
This, I assume, is what people have been trying to say. But I think it’s important to note that this definition states the purpose as “usually... self-amusement,” and that there are three more definitions listed on the site, all of which are much closer to #1 than #2.
For the sake of clarity, I humbly suggest pointing out specific logical fallacies rather than just calling people “trolls” and accusing them of “trolling.” It’s easily misinterpreted by those of us who’ve had to deal with truly awful trolls.

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