Advice for Dealing with Trolls

What to do instead

So what should we do instead. It's very simple:

  1. Ask him what he means. ; interrogate him:

    • "Why do you feel that Python is so bad? What do you find wrong with it?"
  2. Agree with him (but use a softer language):

    • "Yes, Perl is a nice language, and I agree that Python has its downsides and/or trade-offs in comparison to Perl."
    • "It's OK to prefer Perl, we'll still accept you here."

    This will make the troll lose steam and help you find a common ground.

  3. And eventually negotiate a common ground: "Would you agree that some people like Perl better and some like Python better? (And some may like both equally.). Maybe you can still write Python code and be productive in it while still not in love with it. Who knows, maybe you'll even grow to like it. Feel free to stick around and ask questions."

(After I originally read that in Feeling Good, I immediately thought that it made immediate sense, and that it will likely work in most cases. However, later I thought that I probably would not have thought about it myself.)

Repeat that a few times and the troll will eventually calm down and will become more friendly and hospitable. Some people who've read a draft of this article claimed that such a person will probably troll further in the future, and so one should get rid of him as quickly as possible. While this may often be the case, one should understand that it is not always the case for all trolls. Moreover, you should learn to tolerate people that have some bad personality traits which you don't like, instead of deciding right away that you hate them and don't want to have anything to do with them. I have decided to do that, and often found these Internet people to be of some value, whether in entertainment, knowledge or technical help.

On the other hand, if you dismiss every one as a "troll" for any small problem, your community will not grow a lot and you'll leave people with a lot of bad taste in the mouth.


An interesting take on the issue, which borrows a page from Wikipedia's suggestions for debate.

Folksonomies: centrism rhetoric debate trolls forums comment threads persuasion

/technology and computing/programming languages (0.782484)
/technology and computing/programming languages/c and c++ (0.414403)
/society/crime/personal offense/torture (0.408121)

common ground (0.951008 (negative:-0.376886)), bad personality traits (0.925993 (negative:-0.709347)), Python (0.789996 (negative:-0.404030)), softer language (0.766957 (neutral:0.000000)), Python code (0.741066 (positive:0.286840)), Feeling Good (0.717426 (negative:-0.232890)), nice language (0.714244 (positive:0.550987)), immediate sense (0.709972 (neutral:0.000000)), bad taste (0.694078 (negative:-0.657421)), small problem (0.693707 (negative:-0.451257)), people (0.688841 (negative:-0.076354)), technical help (0.675960 (positive:0.429182)), Internet people (0.665267 (neutral:0.000000)), troll (0.648544 (positive:0.191147)), Perl (0.641940 (positive:0.565723)), trolls (0.544136 (negative:-0.443368)), case (0.447134 (negative:-0.533136)), downsides (0.423134 (neutral:0.000000)), trade-offs (0.418362 (neutral:0.000000)), Repeat (0.400674 (positive:0.611752)), Advice (0.396490 (negative:-0.353600)), issue (0.396251 (negative:-0.353600)), page (0.396131 (neutral:0.000000)), Wikipedia (0.396083 (neutral:0.000000)), debate (0.393896 (neutral:0.000000)), suggestions (0.392375 (neutral:0.000000)), equally. (0.389803 (positive:0.222791)), questions (0.385928 (positive:0.653441)), love (0.383653 (positive:0.286840)), mouth (0.382468 (negative:-0.657421))

Wikipedia:Company (0.722576 (neutral:0.000000))

Python (0.920839): website | dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
C (0.880267): website | dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Ruby (0.870469): website | dbpedia | freebase | yago
Object-oriented programming (0.859079): dbpedia | freebase
English-language films (0.835500): dbpedia
Regular expression (0.824823): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Perl (0.819087): website | dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Psychology (0.715041): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 Dealing with Internet Trolls - the Cognitive Therapy Approach
Electronic/World Wide Web>Blog:  Fish, Shlomi (Mar. 6th, 2011), Dealing with Internet Trolls - the Cognitive Therapy Approach, Retrieved on 2011-03-07
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: centrism rhetoric debate trolls forums comment threads persuasion


    05 JUN 2011

     Illuminate the Opposition

    Memes on communicating science and rationality to the masses in a way that is honest and genuine.