Tuesday, 15 January 2013

How can I spot trolling?

Trolling is posting to provoke an emotional response from other posters.

Lots of people troll, and someone who does it regularly without making other contributions to the forums or the community can be labelled as a troll.  Trolling isn't necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes it can be pretty funny.  Not usually though.

To know what's happening on the boards, it is important to be able to recognise trolling.  To figure this out is easy - you just have to read what they post and then ask yourself "is this person more interested in annoying someone than in having a discussion?"

This isn't an exhaustive list by any means, but some examples of common trolling behaviour are:
  • ignoring the opposing points when responding to them
  • claiming the opposing arguments mean something they don't
  • focusing on minor or inconsequential issues
  • continuing behaviour that other posters find rude or annoying, despite polite requests to stop
  • making multiple aggressive replies to a single post
  • making multiple aggressive posts, and then claiming that they don't want to get dragged into a fight
  • changing someone's username into an insult
  • when challenged on these types of behaviour, claiming to be a misunderstood victim of the community.
None of this is trolling every time.  For example, just because some people find something annoying, it isn't necessarily a reason to stop - though doing something just because it annoys someone probably is. And several of these techniques are used by people who are just highly opinionated and bad at arguing.  Or who have anger management issues.  Or whatever.  You don't really know for sure what the person at the other end of the keyboard is thinking.  It's usually trolling.  But even if it isn't, they are all signals that this person is not really interested in a discussion, and you have to ask yourself if they are really worth engaging with.

There is also some trolling behaviour that is particular to HSX, because of the rules of the community.  Examples of this include:
Obviously, doing any of these once or twice is not trolling.  But traders who do any of these things incorrectly are quickly reminded about it, and anyone who has been around the forums for more than a few months is familiar with these rules.  The simplest - and probably the most charitable - explanation for someone doing it again and again and again is to annoy other members of the community.

Just as there are lots of different ways of trolling, there are lots of different ways that you can deal with trolls.  Success varies with the situation, but some suggestions are:
  • keeping your points as clear and succinct as possible
  • not taking anything said on the boards too seriously
  • ignoring the troll so they will go somewhere else for attention
  • giving the troll enough rope to look stupid
  • trusting that other members of the community will recognise trolling when they see it
  • not making personal attacks that allow the troll to claim they are being unfairly victimised
  • remembering that arguing with trolls means they win.

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