Troll issues vs. actual reader debates and disagreements

lookout_for_trollsAs a long time blogger I’ve had my fair share of readers who don’t like my opinion or who for whatever reason just plain hate me. I’ve been slammed about my opinion on issues you’d expect like global warming or circumcision or baby vaccines and on some you wouldn’t like organic gardening, why I don’t like coupons, and even why recycling is good. It’s amazing what people will freak over.

However, there’s a real difference between readers with actual debates over what I say vs. trolls. As a blogger who blogs for clients, you probably have some control over reader comments. I moderate comments at maybe 75% of the blogs I write at for others. Because of this it’s smart to learn how to tell the trolls from actual readers with valid opinions and points to share.

Why? Debates and opinions, whether you agree or not, keep the conversation going and is within a readers right (in my opinion) to share. You don’t want to delete comments from readers unless they actually are troll comments because that’s just not cool.

Trolls on the other hand are evil and you should delete their comments (see more about why below). Right now I have the worst troll I’ve ever had. She’s obsessive about me, but trust me I’m so not flattered. She’s nothing but mean, won’t go away, and has even sent letters to my editors about me. Ah, the hyper active obsessed proactive troll – gotta love it. She seemingly wants me fired, dead, or both with no rhyme or reason and while I’m currently over her it’s been very frustrating in the past. These are the folks you want to get rid of.

How to tell trolls from real readers with real argumentative opinions:

Real readers who don’t agree…

Post valid concerns or opposite opinions about what you write. You may not agree but face it you’re not perfect. Example – when I write about global warming usually some readers leave comments about why they think I’ve got global warming all wrong. Yeah, I don’t agree usually, but LOTS of people don’t agree with global warming, and it’s your right to not believe and to say so.

Back their opinion up. “You suck – global warming is a farce!” is not backing an opinion up. “I disagree because some scientists or this book says such and such” is backing an opinion up.

Aren’t personal. Readers who disagree with an opinion are one thing. That’s their right, but they argue on a level that attacks your opinion NOT you personally. For example, you may say, “Never write for free.” To which a reader may say, “I think you haven’t looked at writing for free from all sides – some of us got paying writing jobs by writing for free” – the reader didn’t attack you just your opinion.

Inspire a response. If you feel like responding to a reader comment to debate the issue then the comment is likely well thought out (although not always) and an actual argument. Troll comments on the other hand inspire no response they just make you go, “WTF?” or “And your point is…?


Attack on a personal level without addressing the actual topic.You are horrible;” “You’re an idiot;” “This blog sucks;” and so on is a personal attack not an opinion on a topic. Sometimes a troll will address a topic but not in a meaningful way, such as they may say, “Green homes won’t save money you moron.” Um, ok. They mentioned the topic, but only to call you a name.

Have nothing useful to say. They don’t contribute an argument or tip to a post discussion they just call names or say your idea bites, but don’t have a reason why.

Scare off other readers. No one wants to hang out where people are being mean with no apparent reason. Trolls can kill a community dead which is why you need to nip it in the bud. If a troll will attack you personally then they’ll likely attack other readers too.

Can’t prove that you’re wrong. Trolls will say you have no clue about a topic but never offer any source to back that opinion up. A real debating reader will back their comment up with some sort of fact or idea. Sometimes a troll will throw out facts that you can’t find a source for anywhere.

Don’t listen to reason. A troll may say, “You’re wrong” and if you realize that you are wrong, you may say, “Oops my bad” if you think you’re right, you may respond with a comment like, “No, I’m right because of such and such” but how you respond doesn’t matter. If you say anything a troll will respond with another mean and meaningless comment.

Hurt people’s feelings. Normally debates don’t hurt most people they inspire feelings sure, but more along the lines of passion and discussion. A troll just makes everyone feel rotten about themselves.

Won’t stop. They will go on and on if you let them.

How to stop the trolls…

Trolls don’t do you, your client’s blog, or your other readers any good at all. They do need to be stopped, which can be hard because hyper trolls will change their email if you spam them just so they can stalk you some more. However, with IP address look up it’s easy to see that all the same worded mean comments are coming from the same place. No matter how many times someone in Albuquerque, NM changes their email, their IP will still show up as, surprise Albuquerque, NM. Plus, in my experience evil trolls use the same wording and writing style over and over. From just reading a comment I can tell which troll left it by now.

If you’re writing for a client I’d let them know about the troll as well. Let your client know that you can back up your posts with actual facts and that the troll is just being hateful not insightful. So far whenever I’ve had a troll at a client’s blog, my clients have been helpful and understanding, especially if they’re bloggers themselves.

Don’t feed and care for trolls, as Deb has pointed out in the past. Trolls love the attention.

Be nice at first ONCE then let it go and ignore them. For example, with the troll I have right now, I tried to be nice, to which the troll responded with some sort of a “You suck eggs” type comment. Then I knew she was in fact a real live troll. In the past I’ve had a few successes leaving one nice comment back and it’s turned a possible troll into a debating reader, but if you’re nice and a reader shoots back meanness you know they’re a troll. Ignoring them, which is hard to do (I know) is still the best course of action. Giving your side of the argument will not help. Quoting well known facts will not help. Using all UPPER CASE screams will really not help. Nothing you do in response to a real troll will stop them other than ignoring them. Sometimes that doesn’t even work, but it’s better than arguing with them.

Don’t try to rationalize the situation. I’ve been lucky, trolls actually don’t usually bother me too much. Most of my trolls go away after I spam their email, delete their comments, and ignore them for a while. This current troll stalker I have gave me a headache for a while because she’s one of those who seemingly won’t stop unless I hire a hit. I went from angry to upset to trying to figure out why, with a million blogs to read she keeps coming to mine if she hates me so much, to plotting who they might be in my mind. All of that was a waste of time. Trolls troll because they’re lame mean people who are bored or because they like to be controversial but are too dumb to have a real debate. They’re just evil and nothing will make the situation rational so don’t bother trying. If you do you’re just feeding the troll on your own time. Now I ignore her. Not that she’s stopped but at least she’s not wasting my time.

How do you deal with trolls and do you have criteria in place to tell the trolls from real readers with arguments?

[image via stock.xchng]


  1. says

    Usually if I find someone’s blog post completely vile, I simply ignore it. It isn’t worth getting into fights. With most people, however, if I disagree with something they’ve said, I will state that I respectfully disagree with their opinion on (fill in blank.)
    Following the assassination of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King said that we must learn to disagree without becoming violently disagreeable, and this is a rule that I try to live by.
    I have a friend who ended up eliminating her main blog and hiding her auxiliary blogs because of a really awful troll. I feel the best way to handle these jerks is to never publish their comments. Which, as you pointed out, is different from the comments of people who genuinely and (hopefully) respectfully disagree.

  2. J. L. says

    Thanks for making this post. I’ve been searching the web for good examples of what makes a troll. I think you hit all the essential criteria of their disruptive behavior.

    Many times, when I’m on forums, a part of the problem seems to be that the troll doesn’t know they’re being a troll (or they simply don’t care). I’ve seen people who seem to think it’s completely valid to back up opinion with opinion, provoke and attack other users and have no idea how actual debate is conducted.

    Recently I was dealing with such a troll and let my temper get the better of me. She had another tactic to her trolling. She hijacked the thread then began insulting other people and insulting herself. I’ve not met many trolls who insult themselves. It was like she was shooting at everyone and pouring ammo into everyone’s pockets. It’s certainly difficult for me to keep a cool head when someone’s acting up like that. It probably among my greatest pet peeves.


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