Yesterday I put the question out on Twitter: How do you deal with trolls? I thought I might share the advice and expertise of other bloggers in the twittersphere, but mostly I got a bunch of smart assed replies. “Fight them off with Dwarves” was one, “Add a little salt and cook until well done” was another. There were more but I’m sure you get the picture. Dealing with trolls, or people who comment on your blogs in a negative manner for the sole purpose of stirring up trouble is really no laughing manner. I have one regular troll who likes to visit all of my blogs and troll in the comments or through email, plus several occasional trolls. All are dealt with in matter befitting the individual troll. The truth is you don’t want that kind of negativity to spill over into your community.
Don’t Feed the Trolls
If there’s one thing I learned in nine years of writing online, it’s that trolls dig controversy. In fact, they come by for the reaction and hope it’s negative. Indeed nothing makes their jeans tighter than to create dissension. Still, there are ways to respond to trolls. Here are a few of the more serious answers received from Tweets:
- “Feed a fever, starve a troll” @YatPundit
- “Delete/Ban/Block, for the most part. Sometimes, turn them in to a “cathartic humour piece”. @ShaiCoggins (who has my thoughts this morning.)
- “I’ve found ignoring trolls tends to starve them out more than anything. Responding or deleting both seem to just feed them” @Tekaran_Lady
- “the best way to handle troll is to ignore them.. .they need the attention, deny them that” @banji
- “Annoying comments that add to the conversation stay and I may or may not respond. Rude and unproductive = delete. It *is* my blog” @berrybrewer
- “you ignore trolls. Makes them crazy” @searchguru
The most common advice for dealing with trolls is to ignore them and they’ll go away. This is true in most cases. Because trolls live for a reaction, silence causes them to die out or move on. Some of the more adventurous trolls need to be dealt with differently.
Calling Out the Trolls
Sometimes I give the trolls the attention they crave. I take their negative emails or comments and post them on a blog with my very nice response. I don’t engage in name calling, vulgarity, or rudeness, I just address the remark in the sweetest manner I can muster. Using what I call the “sticks and stones” method of dealing with rudeness, I never, ever let them see me get angry or upset. Then I let my community have at ’em. They don’t get angry or rude either. It’s my hope that by posting the comment or email for the world to see, I’m showing the troll how ridiculous he or she comes off. Usually trolls have such a high opinion of themselves they don’t get it, either that or they’re just too dumb to see what’s going on.
Dealing With Negativity on Your Blog
If you have someone coming to your blog and leaving mean or vulgar comments, you have several recourses.
- Delete the comment – I’m surprised at how many bloggers disagree with this as they feel deleting rudeness is somehow messing with free speech. I disagree. People are welcome to disagree on my blog but they have to be respectful of others in the community. Once they cross the line, they’re zapped. Besides, it’s my blog and I say what goes. (My troll loves when I say that as it gives an excuse to say I’m bossy.)
- Ban the troll – WordPress allows you to log the trolls IP number or numbers so their comments are held in moderation or immediately sent to the spam filter.
- Put all comments into moderation – I don’t like this idea because it doesn’t encourage conversation among your commenters to flow. By making everyone wait until you have time to moderate doesn’t give them incentive to participate. The blogs with the worst participation are generally those that put all comments into moderation.
- First comment moderation – This is a more workable solution. Whenever someone new posts, his comment is held in moderation. After the first approval he’s free to actively participate.
- Disallow comments – I wouldn’t even consider it for my blogs. It totally defeats the purpose and isn’t what blogging is about.
- Ignore the negative comment – Easy for you to do, not so easy for your community. If you don’t want flame wars it’s best not to keep a negative comment around.
- Let it become part of the conversation – You can leave the rude comment up to become part of the conversation, but don’t be surprised if comments take a nasty turn and commenters start attacking each other or get turned off by the negativity.
When it comes to trolls, consider your community first. How will they feel about a bunch of negativity and mudslinging? If this is the constant atmosphere, you’re going to turn off many visitors and even some of the regulars. Ask yourself if you’d rather have a hostile community or a productive community. It’s my experience that the best blog communities are those where the regulars are helpful and respectful and the trolls are few and far between.
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