Picture by VS6507 via Wikimedia Commons
I had a new experience this week, one that I require your indulgence to discuss. (Okay, I want to vent and I need an audience.) It regards a rather despicable application of knowledge: trolling community forums looking for people to bully. It’s a great source of victims, because people who ask questions are by definition less knowledgeable, and thus more vulnerable.
In my case, it all began as a normal work day. I was looking for an answer to a simple, unimportant question about an online service I use. I’m not going to say which service, nor will I post any of the comments made, because I have no interest in coming anywhere within the reach of this person’s malice. I do not feed trolls; it is unkind and unnecessary. I will merely give the gist of the conversation, with a bit of analysis thrown in:
I went on the community forum and started a thread with my question about the page that wasn’t performing for me.
Post # 2:
Inget Namn (according to Google Translate, this means “no-name” or “generic” in Swedish) answered immediately, saying that his page worked fine; I should look at it. Then he suggested that my page hadn’t been up long enough. (Note that he gave me no help at all. Looking back on it, I realize that he was seeking information to see whether I was a good subject for attack. He also got a chance to link his URL. Every little click counts.)
I responded that I had the same problem when I tried to open his page.
He accused me of not reading the information properly. He posted his URL and suggested that I try again. (Ah, yes. Very helpful. It’s also another invitation to link to his page.)
A new contributor noted that Inget Namn was misinterpreting my problem, and gave his interpretation.
I thanked the new contributor.
Inget Namn directly accused me of not being able to read instructions.
By that point, I had already figured out the answer to my difficulty. Isn’t it amazing how talking with other people about a problem spurs you to solve it yourself? I posted my answer to the question, and thanked those who had helped me find it.
But I had also figured out my topic for this week’s blog post. So now I admit to doing a little bit of trolling of the fishing variety. Naming no names, I mentioned those who started out by demeaning me and ended up being rude. I suggested that they were not helping anyone, but were, on the contrary, driving people away from a valuable service. Having set the bait, I waited.
Another reader posted a clarification of something I had said.
Inget Namn came back, answering the new poster with a negative comment about my abilities. (Note how bullies try to enlist the approval of the audience.)
Now It’s My Turn
I normally don’t give people like this any more time than I have to. I find the best way to beat the bullies of this world is to live a happy life and ignore them. However, in order to do my best for my readers, I was willing to dip my hand into the sewer one more time. I looked up this guy’s profile on the community forum. According to him, he has written a book on the subject. He has used this service for many years, and his posts number in the five figures. Yes, folks, that’s more than ten thousand posts. If you do the math, he posts about a hundred times a week. Of course, the record listed by the internet service credits him with only about half that many, but hey, a person’s allowed a little stretch for promotional purposes, isn’t he?
I have to hand it to this character; he has found an occupation that suits his proclivities. He can game the search engines to promote his book and indulge his favourite nasty pastime all at the same time. Of course, some of us also have a life.
I hope I have phrased my post in such a way that Inget Namn will never find out about it. In the first place, I have no interest in getting involved in a battle with someone who has no other interest than starting battles. (See comment above about living a happy life.)
A Timely Warning:
Never, Ever, Feed the Trolls.
You may discover that the battle you thought you were winning is not the one he was waging at all.
In the second place, I know from years of experience that these people are mostly seeking attention. It’s all sorts of fun not giving them the pleasure of getting any. Of course, there’s always the possibility that twenty people of this sort will see themselves in my description and decide to attack me. Please believe me, Mr. Troll, it isn’t you I’m talking about, and I’m sorry you’re hungry.
Ah, the sacrifices we journalists make for our art! I will offer many bytes to Akismet, God of Antispam, and his first angel Captcha, and keep my firewalls current.
The fun part is waiting to see how long Inget Namn will keep trying to entice me into a fight, while I sit here giggling at his pathetic attempts.
Oh, yes, but I do owe him for a great subject for a blog post. Many thanks for a pleasant day’s entertainment, Mr. Inget Namn. May your identity be forever shrouded in the obscurity you deserve.