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Don’t Feed the Trolls

You probably have heard of this formal or informal rule which basically means: people who want to disrupt our online community are insatiable (they have an appetite for this that can’t be appeased or satiated or fed to satisfaction).  So “Don’t Feed the Trolls” basically means please, don’t spend your precious time, energy and resources dealing with people who want to distract you from your real work here, be it to: post knowledge queries, share professional experiences, provide answers to technical questions, acknowledge and highlight helpful content, critique or comment on products or services, or update the community about relevant events, projects, activities, conversations.

What’s a Troll?

Wikipedia defines a troll in the following way:

“A troll usually has little or no interest in contributing to the development of the site in question and is interested in:

  • Deliberately angering people.
  • Breaking the normal flow of debate/discussion.
  • Disrupting the smooth operation of the site.
  • Deliberately being annoying for the sake of being obnoxious. For instance, using abusive names to refer to all the members on the site.
  • Making itself the main topic of interest or discussion.”

Let’s starve the trolls by:

  • Ignoring
  • Alerting sapnetwork.com only if there is defamatory or incendiary or damaging content
  • Ignoring
  • Alerting moderators or our SCN team only if there is defamatory or incendiary or damaging content
  • Ignoring

A helpful guideline or rule of thumb to responding to comments is embedded in this blog: Don’t Feed the Trolls- 3 Rules to Follow When Responding to Comments

  • Ignore flame war comments or pure negative comments
  • Respond to criticism (as differentiated from pure negative vitriol or poison ) when something needs to be clarified
  • Always respond to positive comments

It’s obvious how caring the community is about the quality of posts and the quality of the conversation on SCN so a huge thanks to all those that keep us on our toes about the type of content and tone in our community.  And thanks to those that are watchful in those places where conversations become inappropriate and either press “abuse” button or send their concerns to sapnetwork.com.  

We of course welcome dissent and invite original thinking, so please, avoid thinking someone a troll just because they critique or have a different point of view.  Sometimes hearing things we don’t “like” are the most important types of listening we can do.

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24 Comments

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  1. Michelle Crapo
    I feed a troll this morning.  Next time a quick e-mail to sapnetwork.com.

    The one this morning was very confusing.  I couldn’t believe it had gotten through the moderators, and so I assummed it was an “expert” blogger. 

    Amazing a troll in a blogger suit! Can’t you just picture that?

    Thanks for the info,

    Michelle

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    1. Marilyn Pratt Post author
      As we move toward the Jive migration we will be approaching moderation of blogs a bit differently. There won’t be an expert blogger designation or concept as such, so the “getting through moderation” assumption will need to be revisted.  Space/topic owners will be keeping a mindful watch on the quality of content in their areas and will have the ability to govern, but ratings will take on a larger measure of influence. In any online community, environment or gathering of human beings there will always be the (hopefully rare) angry and disguntled types though. While the vast majority of participants are well-intentioned it can be very confusing to try to “understand” a troll.  I think we all need to be mindful that this kind of thing crops up even in the very best of environments (and online families) and a google of “Don’t Feed The Trolls” will bring quite a number of hits and a goodly number of suggestions of how not to feed them.  I imagine in retrospect that when many of our team was traveling, it was a convenient time for a masquerade.  But going forward we will all need to take responsibility for the quality of the posts here.  The expert blogger concept will be replaced by the watchfulness and responses of an expert community.
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      1. Dear Marilyn,

        I could not agree more. The blog moderation is quite difficult. One should help the moderators. We need abuse buttons.

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  2. Krishnakumar Ramamoorthy
    Hi Marilyn

    You are absolutely right. I saw one this morning too and probably the same one as Michelle’s but sort of got carried away by the fact that this troll was able to get through our community/moderation. You are right tough, best way to deal with this is to just ignore. There is a saying where I grew up – “Don’t throw stone at sewer.. the loss is always yours”.

    KK

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    1. Marilyn Pratt Post author
      Hi KK,
      It was great seeing you at SAP TechEd and thanks for your additional wisdom around response.  Perhas we need a wider discussion of moderation going forward. Especially in light of the change in the way we will view content vetting.  Gali and Moshe from our team work very closely with the moderator council.  They are always interested in the sharing of leading practices for keeping quality a main focus here. This is a good opportunity for more comments around how this is best accomplished.
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  3. Chip Rodgers
    Well said!  This is the right approach.  It’s unfortunate and sad that some feel they get some benefit from this kind of behavior.  We are so proud of the positive, proactive way that our community “pays it forward” (as Mark said last week) by engaging, supporting, helping, and collaborating with each other.  That is the legacy of the SCN Community and as a group we can all overwhelm  negatives with the positive and helpful behavior the community exhibits every day of the year.  Thank you all!
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  4. Jeanne Carboni
    I can’t imagine someone who would prey on a “Pay it Forward” community with negative comments and instigation, especially after such a positive experience at TechEd Las Vegas 2011.  I hope they can find some happiness in something more positive, like helping those around them. 

    Jeanne

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  5. Henrique Pinto
    Yes! Not feeding the trolls is mandatory, but to expect them to die just from starvation is just too slow. We need to take our mod-shotguns out and go hunting. XD

    BR,
    Henrique.

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  6. THX Marilyn,

    if the commentors had just kept there mouth shut, the whole blog would have gone unnoticed. It is always the vigilantes that cause the riot.

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  7. Mauricio Cruz
    I think that some ppl who fed the troll were just trying to “protect their homes”. Sometimes we have that strong feel that we need to comment and argue with the troll as if we were archer shooting arrows at invaders from “Trollland”…

    As they will never get pass through the gates (too weak to do so), we should really carry on with our activities and ignore them. Maybe they’ll go away, but if they keep screaming we can call our Moderator Knights to cut of their heads.

    Sorry, yesterday I was playing Age of Empires II (old games #FTW) and I had to make this analogy 🙂

    Mauricio Cruz

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    1. So true. One would like to act on such behaviour. The urge to cut of heads is so strong. But we must not reside to violence!
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  8. Michelle Crapo

    I agree feeding the trolls is a bad idea.  I’d hate for them to continue to grow.  Now if we make them hungry enough.   Hurrah!   Like a normal predator they leave when there isn’t any food.

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    1. Marilyn Pratt Post author
      Sorry, but no debate this time.  As I’ve just responded, sometimes unpleasant things really need to be heard.  Not everyone knows how to package saying them “nicely”.  But a troll (in my books) is someone with a “personal” vendetta.  The key word “personal”. When someone attacks someone else rather than attacks a belief, they have overstepped the guidelines for community.
      I’ll provide a link to the definition of “ad hominem” but the gist is: “Abusive ad hominem (also called personal abuse or personal attacks) usually involves insulting or belittling one’s opponent in order to attack his claim or invalidate his argument, but can also involve pointing out factual but apparent character flaws or actions that are irrelevant to the opponent’s argument. This tactic is logically fallacious because insults and negative facts about the opponent’s personal character have nothing to do with the logical merits of the opponent’s arguments or assertions.”
      Definition of Ad Hominem
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  9. Kumud Singh
    Hi Marilynn,

    Words have to be chosen carefully.Few days back I was taken aback with certain words used while commenting on blogs and was very confused as to what is happening.
    However, I would say its the words and attitude if combined properly can bring new perspectives from the mind of a TROLL.If they have an issue they should present it the right way.
    This is just an opinion of mine and in no ways I am supporting them. Its always good not to have chaotic people adding no value to anything.

    Thanks,
    Kumud

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    1. Marilyn Pratt Post author
      Yes, we should be listening, even if the tone is strident and the words “upsetting”.  The only kind of censorship excerised (if any should be) is for defamatory words or offensive profanity or personal attack (see the ad hominem rules).
      If someone has the passion to engage, however unpleasantly, they obviously feel they have something that they want made known.  My views on this have evolved over time and I also realize that I may have inadvertantly silenced a few important voices of dissent by not choosing my own words of critique carefully enough.  It is a very delicate balance between moderating and guiding and imposing.  I’m learning that some truths are housed in very ugly frames but that doesn’t make them less truthful.  It’s the personal attacks against others that will not be tolerated here.  Perhaps I’ll even dare say a bit of chaos can shine a light on important topics otherwise overlooked.
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  10. Harmeet Sandhu
    It is easy to be obnoxious and disrespectful when hiding behind the wall of anonymity. There are sites on the web that are increasingly asking their users, commenters to “authenticate” themselves by logging in thru linkedin or face book.

    Perhaps SDN should have similar rules? Privacy champions would probably jump at it, but I dont think it is much of a privacy issue when posting on forums and blogs.

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    1. Michelle Crapo
      Isn’t that going to stop some of the involvement.  I know some people do not want others to know when they are asking a “stupid” question.  (No such thing.)  So they would rather post anonymously.

      Besides some of these guys have names attached.  Just not their own.  Or is that your point?

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      1. Craig S
        Michelle is correct.  I have friends whose dogs have a facebook account. Creating a fake identity on the internet is very easy. And what social site does SAP get in bed with? LinkIn? Facebook? A porno age verification service? ( no charge to your credit card, honest!)

        Also, from an anonimity standpoint, some folks, need that because companies:
        1) don’t like employees posting as they believe it might reveal info good/bad/private about the company.
        2) don’t like the idea of employees or consultants posting during work hours which most do.
        3) As Michele said, an ‘expert’ isn’t suppose to have to ask a question. They might not want to look stupid. (to me the real expert is the one that knows when to ask the question and what question to ask).
        4) I don’t want every recruiter in the world looking up my real name and getting my contact info.  I have enough of them already and I don’t want to be bothered by many of the more sleazy and unethical ones.
        5) If SAP really wants to find out who you are, they can.  All they have to do is send an email to your registered email and threaten to delete your account if you don’t connect them and let them know who you are.  They don’t have to make that info public. Those that are real will respond to that.  Trolls won’t.
        6) if you see a repetitive troll on the site, report his postings to SDN.

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    2. Harmeet Sandhu
      For every poster that wants to stay under the radar, I can count two that would not see an issue with not being anonymous.  Point being – the argument is subjective at best.

      I am personally not a fan of excessive internet policing, It is no fun waiting  up to 2 weeks to have a blog reviewed and approved, however, what I suggest is one of the many possible solutions to the problem this blogger presented. The easiest of them all hitting the ignore button.

      Responding to the 2nd poster – many companies are now embracing or see value in allowing social media to some extent at the workplace. It boils down to building relationships. My overall experience has been more positive than negative by active participation in professionally oriented social sites such as the SDN.

      To answer why I do not want to post anonymously, I have to first answer why I post at all. I genuinely like to share what I know and would like to know those who think in same token. To share what I know not anonymously makes me feel part of the solution. It is that simple. While some may not like it, I think it is imperative, by legislation or otherwise, in near future, most legitimate sites would require such authentication. Think of it this way,  in the physical world you cannot just go out (at least most of us cannot) and create a transaction anonymously. Closest analogy that comes to mind is driving a car. You just don’t pick up a vehicle and drive away without valid ID. Similarly on the information superhighway  the so called troll should not be able to create irresponsible, acerbic content  and get away with it. There are countless instances where this has caused wreak in personal lives.  Just my two cents.

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      1. Michelle Crapo
        I agree with you completely.   Internet policing.  They police blogs right now – until you are an expert blogger.  I’m told that will change with the new SCN.

        My concern is more about the comments to a legitimate blog.   A personal attack will have a negative effect on the blogger.  It will be even worse if it is a first time blogger the troll has attacked.

        Yes, if it’s a blog they wrote.  I ignore it.

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      2. Stephen Johannes
        I can’t remember if it was on the Moderators/SAP Mentors/Coffee Corner forum, but there was a discussion about “verified” accounts for SCN as part of reputation system.  Personally I’m in favor of giving the community better tools to understand what content they should trust and what content they should ignore.

        One of the key agreements though from that discussion was that we all should look for ways to encourage “ownership” in the community.  Ownership is simply a way of saying that you want to help make sure that your own actions and others help keep the community vibrant instead of doing things that tear things down.

        I would tend to agree ignoring is the best approach right now and based on what I have seen on the new platform, the tools should be there for the moderators to better moderate the blogs instead of the current method where tools can’t support the process effectively.

        Take care,

        Stephen

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