User:(wszx)/trolls

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There is a systemic misuse of the word "troll" on this wiki and its CC. The primary cause is that "troll" is easily used as a convenient catchall term for disruption, incorrigibility or harassment. That none of these is, by itself, trolling means we have a problem when such behavior is labeled "trolling". This misuse is worsened by the fact that "trolling" is a word more pejorative than "disruption" or "rudeness", and simply by its use the well is already poisoned when the behavior in question is reviewed. Though I do not necessarily indict the integrity of such labellers, it is somewhat disheartening to see its use when I perceive it to be knowingly used dishonesty solely for this well-poisoning effect.

This misuse often occurs because not everyone knows what "trolling" strictly is. "Trolling" has a very specific definition. It derives from the term trolling, referring to a practice of catching fish wherein the fisher slowly trolls through the water with baited lines cast out behind him, hoping for a bite from the fish. The parallel between this and internet trolling is obvious: the troll (fisherman) casts out some sort of discussion (bait) for the other members of a community/chat/discussion board (fish) to react to (they bite!). The essence of "trolling" is that someone lays bait for the others in hopes that they respond to the bait in a way that the troll desires. In this context, this is done by saying things which appear genuine though foolish or inflammatory, and others respond to it in earnest because the comments appear genuine and so warrant a genuine and potentially passionate response. It is this reaction that the troll is hoping to cause by his actions. The word "troll" may refer to the comments put forth in order to troll a group as well as the person who does such.

Attempting to generally elicit response from one specific person may or may not be trolling, and rarely is. Trolling by its nature relies on a pretense of good faith to disguise the intent of the troll. If provocation is explicit and there is no pretense of good faith in the comments, it cannot be trolling. Rather, such explicit action is generic baiting, goading or antagonization. This conduct is often as antagonistic and mean as trolling—and often less refined than a well-executed troll—but it is not trolling. For it to be trolling, the bait-comments must still appear to be good faith, but knowingly designed to provoke a specific reaction from a specific person. This is difficult to accomplish as a true act of trolling because trolling must have a pretense of good faith. If the target in question is known to be angered or inflamed by a particular thing, the target himself likely knows this and will be able to detect when it is being used to provoke him—if this occurs the facade of good faith is seen through and the troll is unsuccessful. It is still possible to do, though: Anonymous once said it had over 9000 penises to use to sexually assault minors. Oprah, knowing the context of neither "over 9000" nor "Anonymous", perceived it to be a good-faith threat and accordingly took it seriously and responded seriously. This was a troll of Oprah, and it was a successful troll.

Successful trolls are generally impossible to detect by the group being trolled because the very nature of a troll means that what is said must be identical to genuine good-faith discourse—however misguided such discourse may be. If someone, say, writes a book defending pedophilia and sells it on Amazon while earnestly defending the work and propriety of the sale, could it be a troll? Perhaps. Is the author is making a good show of being sincere in his beliefs about pedophilia and the propriety of publishing and selling the book on Amazon—while secretly hoping to stir up trouble when people defend his right to free speech against those who think the book is illegal, of poor taste and not to be sold on Amazon? Then, yes, it's a troll. But if the author actually does believe what he is professing then, no, he's not a troll no matter how much controversy he stirs up. "Trolling" requires intent to engineer trouble with the guise of sincerity. Simply being controversial or inflammatory is not trolling in and of itself.

Though a troll may exhibit general disruption, rudeness or incorrigibility during a troll, these things by themselves are not an act of trolling. It is tempting to view simple provocation as trolling, because it fits the oft-cited broad description of trolling as "attempting to elicit an emotional response", but it is not. Trolling is a subset of a broader class: basic provocation of others. "Trolling" is demarcated by the essential elements of seemingly good-faith comments and response that is only provided because of the apparent authenticity of the comments.

Though nobody seems to be concerned with the misuse of this term,—particularly when used as justification for a kick in the CC—judicious users should take care that they not use this term when another is more appropriate.