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Beware of the Troll!
If you've spent any time in chat rooms, bulletin boards or posting on Usenet you may have already come across one of these troublesome creatures.
Often suffering from a mutant strain of compulsive posting disorder, a troll's basic mission in life is to mischievously manufacture inflammatory opinions in an attempt to stir up disharmony and discord.
The most common breed of troll seeks attention by enthusiastically posting up a stream of off-topic drivel or by being clumsily provocative (like posting up, "PCs ROOL!" on an Apple Mac discussion board.)
Ignore them. The worst thing you can do is to try and engage them in rational debate as this only encourages them to hang around.
And once they find themselves the centre of attention, they inevitably become more and more 'controversial' before building up to a crescendo of abuse, followed by a theatrical flounce.
But these are mere bagatelle compared to the Nasty Troll. Like an unruly two year old in a perpetual temper tantrum, these destructive keyboard bullies want to break everything and spoil everyone's fun.
A Nasty Troll has no redeeming features whatsoever and they'll employ every dirty-no-good trick in the book in their tedious quest to wreck an online community.
This usually includes hurling around oceans of gratuitous abuse and defamatory comments, all delivered via a range of anonymous identities - with a few forged ones thrown in for good measure.
Sharp eyed bulletin board editors can usually ban 'bad bwoy' trolls before they can cause too much trouble, but on unmoderated newsgroups the damage can be terminal, with some communities giving up in the face of relentless attacks.
But not all trolls are quite so evil. A sophisticated, well researched troll can breathe much needed life into slumbering bulletin boards, turning soporific posters into turbo-charged Ian Paisleys with just a few carefully chosen posts.
Although an audacious and cunning troll can sometimes earn the begrudging respect of its target audience, such levels of sophistication are rarer than a Swansea City goal, and for most people trolls are an irritation they could live without.
Check out the links below and learn all about your online enemy: after all, when it comes to trolls, forewarned is forearmed.
(Article by Mike Slocombe for Internet Magazine, March 2003. Reproduced with permission)
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