Trolling Not Allowed When Community is in Control.

Many of us have been on message board. It’s a great way for people to ask questions, solicit feedback or simply engage in friendly forms of conversation. Often times this isn’t the case, however. There are some people who may respond to discussions simply to try and get a rise out of people and start battles over petty things that doesn’t add value to the conversation. These people are called trolls. Wikipedia defines it as:

Someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional or disciplinary response[1] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.[2]

I would add another focus to the word “troll” as someone who is given the answer that is needed but continues to persist in inquiring simply because it’s not the answer he or she wants to hear. This is what I encountered when reading a conversation that started off simply with a question but slowly, yet surely, escalated to the original poster wondering why her questions were not being answered (although when you do read the responses, it actually is).

The conversation in question is on a now-closed discussion on Flickr where the original poster (hereby designated “OP”) puts up information that appears to be specific enough but unfortunately actually isn’t specific enough. Having given only information sufficient enough to be considered hypothetical, the community responds with answers that they think they can give through their experiences and that is warranted given the superficial details provided. You can read the entire dialogue here on Flickr, but the point is that when given a response that basically answers the questions, the OP feels that she is being attacked. After reading the dialogue do I not see any harshness in the tone (but there is some sarcasm but none that would merit feeling “attacked”).

The OP continues to feel that she is being attacked through the entire conversation and continues to spam the discussion with the same question over and over again. But what is interesting is that through her “reverse trolling” (which I’m defining as the OP being the troll and not the respondee), she thinks that she can control the conversation even though she’s not the moderator. Censorship is not a big thing amongst communities and if you’re going to engage the community for questions or help, one needs to understand that it’s not all about them. The answers that you receive are open and will be heard unless they violate the website’s policy. So the OP should not have felt that she could simply have the respondee “walk away” because they weren’t “being nice”.

It’s interesting that these conversations take place and how people respond to it. Who knows if the OP ever got the answer she wanted to hear. Answers were freely given and a dialogue occurred, albeit peacefully at first, and if you look at the exchange, you’ll notice that the best way to get answers would be to simply email the company for a response.

Am I in the wrong here? Did I miss something in this conversation that puts me on the opposite side of the winning team?

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."