Troll Poll

At what point do you label someone a troll?

Some of the discussions on my blog get pretty intense and heated. I have no problem with people disagreeing with me. I appreciate it, actually. I learn a lot from people challenging my ideas or offering different perspectives.

I do have a problem with people who consistently violate Wheaton’s Law. But I’ve also watched people swoop into a conversation at Dick Factor Nine, only to eventually turn around and say, “Huh … okay, I guess maybe you have a point there. Sorry for being a dick.”

Yeah, it doesn’t happen often. But it has happened.

To me, a troll is someone who shows up solely to stir things up and piss people off. There’s zero interest in the conversation, zero interest in listening. It’s a game for the troll’s amusement, to poke buttons and see who s/he can piss off.

To me, clueless =/= troll. Angry =/= troll. Even blatant violation of Wheaton’s Law doesn’t necessarily equate to trolling. We all act like jerks sometimes. (I might still ban you for repeated offenses, but I wouldn’t automatically assume you were a troll.)

I think we tend to label people trolls too quickly. And from what I’ve seen, I think we sometimes do it as a way to dismiss people we disagree with. (I’m including myself in the “we” here, by the way.)

What do you think? We can’t read minds, so when do you decide someone is just trolling and no longer worth responding to?

  • Is the “Men’s Rights” advocate who shows up in one of my rape posts to argue that “Rape is a weapon used by feminists to attack men!” a troll?
  • What about the anonymous commenter who says, “I know it’s off-topic, but I wanted to tell you I read your latest book, and it was utter trash.” Does it make a difference if they aren’t anonymous?
  • Does the guy who shows up using offensive language (i.e., “That’s so gay/retarded!”) count as a troll? What if he continues to use that language after being told it’s offensive?

It’s possible I’m overanalyzing this. But I’m curious what others think.