Dealing With the Trolls

Todd

photoBlogging can be scary. We understand that. It requires a high level of transparency. Heightened honesty. A willingness to listen. And often a generous helping of patience.

Something happens to certain people when they go online. All decency and kindness leaves them, and they transform into angry trolls, stomping all those who dare get in their way. Having a troll loose on a blog, forum or even the newspaper comment section can derail meaningful exchange and chase off more reasonable commentators.

But you don’t have to let the trolls ruin your day and deny you the numerous benefits a blog affords. A few simple steps will help keep the trolls under the bridge where they belong.

Recognize that negativity is different from trolling.
There are going to be some people who just don’t like your brand, a certain position you take on a topic or the way your hair looks in a particular picture. Just because they disagree doesn’t mean that they’re the enemy. In fact, their voice can be the spark you need to generate valuable conversation.

The key to differentiating negativity from trolling is to remember that a troll is simply there to pick a fight. Their comments will be mean, irrelevant and probably anonymous. There’s no reason to publish such comments.

Create a comment policy.
It’s OK to not post every comment that is submitted. While some might claim that moderating a blog stifles authentic dialog, allowing offensive or off-topic comments will have far more damaging effects. But it’s important to have a set of guidelines in place for what will be blocked. Here’s the summarized comment policy we’ve set up for our blog:

Comments may not post immediately. We review them first in an effort to remove foul language, commercial messages, irrelevancies and unfair attacks. Thank you for your patience.

Reach out.
It’s possible that the trolls are individuals who have a valid frustration with your company, and just don’t know how to communicate it. It might be worth your time to send a quick email to the individual explaining why you blocked the comment and asking if there’s anything you can do to remedy the problem. Sometimes a personal communication is all it takes to defuse a thorny situation.

Dealing with trolls can be frustrating, but remember the Three Billy Goats Gruff. They knocked the troll into the river, making the bridge safe for all who followed. Use your wits and you, too, can make your blog a place where people feel free to speak freely without fear of attack.

What advice do you have for beating back the trolls while encouraging lively discussion?

Photo by Ken Davis.

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4 Comments

  1. November 7, 2008 at 9:26 am — Reply

    Trolls are a huge problem on blogs and forums. Anywhere ppl can be anonymous seems to draw them out. The number one rule when dealing with trolls is that they are fiends who NEED to be fed. If you stop feeding them they will go elsewhere for food. Remember that. 😀

    Cool post found you through google blog search.

    All the best,

  2. November 7, 2008 at 10:06 am — Reply

    I’m a fan of moderation on blogs & forums. This can mean every post has to be approved before going public, but it can also mean problematic posts are addressed *after* being posted. The former can slow down active, real-time conversation, but may not affect forums where traffic is lower and asynchronous communication is typical. The latter takes more work but can result in a better sense of community.

    Everyone wins when anonymity is removed and people use their real identity while online. This is one of my favorite trends in Web2.0. People are learning to develop their personal brand and understand their online behavior should be genuine & authentic, reflect their values, and mirror how they would behave offline.

  3. […] bridge crossing and blog posting equally unpleasant. The folks at Greteman, specifically Todd R., have some suggestions on how to deal with the internet […]

  4. Phaedra
    December 10, 2008 at 1:31 pm — Reply

    I would like permission to repost what you have written about trolls.

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Dealing With the Trolls