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Trolling the web: a guide
By Steve Spumante
There are some individuals out there who don't just enjoy winding up people on newsgroups and bulletin boards - it's their sad lifestyle choice! Using every known disruptive trick in the book, these troublesome types don't go out to the pub, meet members of the opposite sex or enjoy life. They spend their time hunched over their computers trolling.
Here's how they work:
The object of this post is to bring together a definitive document to cover
the phenomena of the Usenet Troll. To many a troll is nothing more than an
annoying method of defeating the killfile whereas to the heavily killfiled,
trolling can be a virtual Godsend.
What I want this document to focus on is how to create entertaining trolls.
I have drawn on the expertise of the writer's of some of Usenet's finest
and best remembered trolls. Trolls are for fun. The object of recreational
trolling is to sit back and laugh at all those gullible idiots that will
Section 1: What Is A Troll?
The WWW gives this as a definition:
To utter a posting on Usenet designed to attract predictable
responses or flames. Derives from the phrase "trolling for
newbies"; which in turn comes from mainstream "trolling";, a
style of fishing in which one trails bait through a likely spot
hoping for a bite.
The well-constructed troll is a post that
induces lots of newbies and flamers to make themselves look even
more clueless than they already do, while subtly conveying to
the more savvy and experienced that it is in fact a deliberate
If you don't fall for the joke, you get to be in on it.
The following extract is from a broader expansion of the defining comments
In Usenet usage, a troll is not a grumpy monster that lives
beneath a bridge accosting passers-by, but rather a provocative
posting to a newsgroup intended to produce a large volume of
The content of a "troll posting generally falls into several
areas. It may consist of an apparently foolish contradiction
of common knowledge, a deliberately offensive insult to the
readers of a newsgroup, or a broad request for trivial follow-up
There are three reasons why people troll newsgroups:
People post such messages to get attention, to disrupt newsgroups,
and simply to make trouble.
Career trollers tend for the latter two whilst the former is the mark
of the clueless newbie and should be ignored.
Section 2: Design Issues
A troll is no different to any other Usenet posting. That needs to be
Any article that you decide to write should be written with
a view to it actually being read by large numbers of people. Simply
X-posting to large numbers of irrelevant newsgroups is not creative
trolling - it is just spam and should be avoided.
The experienced troller spends time carefully choosing the right subject
and delivering it to the right newsgroup. With trolls, delivery is just
as important as the subject.
Start the troll in a reasonable and erudite manner. You have to engage
your readers' interest and draw them in.
Never give too much away at
the start - although a brief abstract with hints of what's to come can
Construct your troll in a manner to make it readable. Use short paragraphs
and lots of white space. Keep line length below eighty characters. Use a
liberal amount of emphasis and even the occasional illustration.
rule of thumb is that as your troll becomes more and more ludicrous put
extra effort into the presentation - this keeps the mug punter confused.
Let confusion and chaos be your goal
Section 3: Content
Make your subject a relevant one. Posting "Star Trek Sucks" into hk.forsale
is not going to work very well and is liable to utterly destroy your hard
earned reputation as a troller overnight.
You do not have to make the subject clear. Trolls are aimed at two audiences,
the respondees and the lurkers.
The best trolls reveal their true subject
only to the lurkers. In every sense those who reply to your troll are your
tools. So choose a theme for your troll and stick to it.
Outwardly you need to appear sincere, but at the same time you have to tell
your *real* audience that this is blatant flamebait. Your skill is shown in
the easy way that you manipulate large areas of the Usenet community into
making public fools of themselves.
Section 4: Newsgroup Selection
Choice of newsgroup is as important as the subject, tone and structure of
the troll. You want to appeal to each group you X-post into to ensure
responses from each group.
A well delivered troll will anticipate what
those responses will be and thus ensure that contradictions will arise
amongst the different groups that you are setting up.
Posting "USA Sucks" to alt.nuke.the.USA, alt.usa-sucks, aus.flame.usa
This is totally on-topic and obvious. A truly useless troll.
Posting "God Doesn't Exist" to all the alt.religion newsgroups
Here you are being too obvious. People recognise this sort of
trouble making and have usually learned not to respond to it.
However, if your troll is well written you can actually entrap
a lot of newbies.
This, if executed correctly, can be exploited
to cause great offence to those more experienced troll avoiders
on the groups you are attacking. Go for it!
Posting an article that appears relevant to every group but with
no connection between those groups other than the fact that you've
just trolled them.
The best trolls go out to an average of around eight or nine newsgroups.
This will stop them from becoming spam as it's not quite enough to be
a real problem. However, to get by on so few groups you have to include
a couple of popular ones in the list.
When posting to say seven groups you should try to break down your theme
into seven areas - each of which will be of specific interest to just
one of those groups.
You then write an eight paragraph troll with a
paragraph for each group and a spare one for yourself with which to lob
in a gratuitous insult to everyone who was dumb enough to read your troll.
It is a matter of choice whether you choose newsgroups before or after
writing the troll.
Some experts claim that newsgroup selection is the
key to successful trolling and should be done first, others will write
general trolls and then apply the standard Perl script that trollers use
for Automatic Random Newsgroup Selection.
Section 5: Know Your Audience
Remember that you have two audiences. The people who are going to get
the maximum enjoyment out of your post are other trollers. You need
to keep in contact with them through both your troll itself and the way
you direct its effect.
It is trollers that you are trying to entertain
so be creative - trollers don't just want a laugh from you they want to
see good trolls so that they can also learn how to improve their own
in the never ending search for the perfect troll.
The other audience is of course the little people in those newsgroups
that your are attacking. Get to know them. Every newsgroup has its
smartarse who will expose your troll if given half a chance.
your targets and learn what their arguments are. Then avoid those arguments like the plague.
Drag them off-topic - the further off-topic the
better. Remember, you are trying to waste their time.
Never take sides - remember that your goal is not to win an argument, rather it is to
provoke a futile one that runs forever.
If, for example you were attacking Fast Food then you should also
X-post to Healthy Eating groups, Environmental Protection Groups,
Animal Rights Groups etc....
You want to try to ensure that you
have the broadest possible range of opinions as this is the easiest
way to sow confusion.
The more confusion the less the likelihood
of your troll being exposed for what it is.
It can also be shown that the inclusion of just one totally off-topic
newsgroup can have dramatic effects.
The list above is taken from a
genuine troll which also included an Artificial Intelligence group, the
result of which was to draw Computer Guru Professor Marvin Minsky into
a flamewar concerning Ronald McDonald's exploitation of the disabled -
an all-time classic piece of trolling - written by a practising veggie.
Section 6: Following-Up
"Even if this is true......"
That represents the perfect response to any troll. The mark of a gullible
lunatic that will almost certainly believe anything you tell them.
A total group embarrassment. Award yourself a Troll Gold Star
every time you get one!
Other good responses include, but are not limited to....
"Although this is on-topic....."
"Can you provide a source for this...."
Try not to follow-up to your own troll. The troll itself quickly becomes
forgotten in the chaos and if you just sit back you can avoid being blamed
for causing it.
Remember, if you do follow up you are talking to an idiot.
Treat them with the ill-respect they deserve.
You should also learn to recognise follow-ups from your fellow trollers.
Sometimes an average troll can be elevated into majestic proportions when
several trollers spontaneously join forces via the medium of the follow
Ignore cries of wasted bandwidth! This is pure drivel that will always be
posted by the anti-troll lobby.
These jerks fail to understand that trolls
are the best way to drive people off the internet thus making available
multi-mbs for the rest of us to download our porn.
Section 7: The Successful Troll
A good example of troll success is the famous "How I Envy American
This troll was written by an English brick-layer posing
as an American student. He correctly posted it to all the college news-
groups and then left american students to do all the work spreading it.
His troll ran for over a year, it is known to have generated in excess of
3,500 responses (an average of 1 response every 160 minutes for a whole
year) and the greatest coup of all was when an innocent american student
lost not only her internet account but was also expelled from high school
for abuse of the computer systems.
Somehow she had managed to get the blame
for causing the troll.
Section 8: Troll RFC
Applications are requested for a standard API to the existing troller's
tool the "Automatic Random X-Post Generator" - now in pre-release beta.
Experienced trollers and recovered trollees are invited to submit items
for inclusion in this FAQ.
We are indebted to the author, firstname.lastname@example.org,
for permission to reproduce this piece.
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