This week’s topic brings back memories. Although I haven’t visited any of them in a while, I saw a lot of trolling on message boards, and on AOL back when they had an extensive message board system, which a lot of people blame the trolls for causing them to be discontinued.
In the early 1990’s when I first started going online AOL was the portal I used. They had an incredible network of message boards that were moderated by experts who answered questions, stimulated conversations, and generally made the boards a positive place where people of the interests could gather from all over the country and converse. This was an important selling point for AOL due to the fact that you paid by the hour to be online using them, does anybody else here remember their AOL bill being a couple hundred dollars a month. The message boards were a great thing, and then the trolls came.
There were, and are, two basic types of trolls, the first type is the juvenile, foul mouthed, type that just disrupts things due to their own ignorance and bad manners. The second type was the one to watch out for, these were the people who were so good at trolling they elevated it to an art form. They would bait their prey by posting seemingly innocuous questions or comments, and then when the bait was taken, they would pounce. If you were on the wrong side of one of their attacks, it wasn’t pretty.
The only way to successfully battle a troll infestation was to take away their food source and starve them out. The mantra was, “Don’t feed the trolls!” Don’t respond to them, don’t acknowledge them; just let them die of boredom. This was easier said than done, there was always somebody who had to have the last word.
Trolls come in all shapes and sizes, some are young and childish, some have sophistication and a keen wit, and some are just down right mean. Trolls have been responsible for shutting down blogs sites, message boards, and if I remember our reading from last week, caused one of the Wikipedia founders to eventually quit his job. At their worst they prey on the weak, cause pain and suffering, and hide behind their mask of anonymity. At their best they challenge authority, the status quo, and take the wind out of few stuffed shirts who deserved it.