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Dealing with An(?:no|on)ytroll

by tirwhan (Abbot)
on Nov 26, 2005 at 15:58 UTC ( #511916=monkdiscuss: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

The last few weeks have seen a seemingly growing number of troll messages on PerlMonks (examples of what I mean are here,here and here). They all appear to be coming from one person (all written in the same style and with basically the same content) or maybe a group of clones. I find these to be an annoyance because

  • They lower the PM average post quality. I (and I'd guess others) recommend PM to people who are new to perl. If these people happen to come across a thread with a lot of Anonytrolls posts they may reach the conclusion that the noise/information ratio here is too high and leave again. Which would be a pity.
  • Volume sometimes trumps quality. A person who comes here and reads dozens of posts containing "perl is dying, java is teh siht" may actually come to believe that there is some truth to this view, no matter how unreasonably it is presented (especially if that person was on the lookout for such posts to justify a political decision "oh look, even perlmonks thinks perl is dying, we have to rewrite all our apps").
  • They waste time and bandwidth.
  • Other PM users sometimes do not recognize them for the troll they are at first glance and waste yet more time trying to offer a considered reply.
  • They are often insulting and nobody likes to be insulted (even by people who one does not hold in high regard).

None of these are terribly worrisome problems, and if they don't bother you, fine. But there are some (I believe) simple things that could be done to alleviate them and so I'm proposing to do some or all of the following.

  • Don't feed the trolls. This is the well-known cardinal rule of troll-handling and yet it is sadly too often ignored. No matter how much a troll node irks you, don't reply to it. Downvote it, and moderate it for consideration if you want, but don't reply. Trolls feed off replies, but if they get cut off from their food supply they leave eventually.
  • Reap troll nodes more readily. There seems to be some reluctance among moderators to vote for reaping a troll node. In principle this reluctance is a good thing, censorship is horrid and we don't want to turn PM into a forum which punishes adverse opinions. But I feel that these nodes (which never contain code or reasonable arguments) could deal with a somewhat more heavy-handed approach. What do you think?
  • Show IP address of Anonymous Monks. I don't know how much effort this would take, but I'd guess it can't be that much (and I'm willing to add the code myself if necessary/desired). I think it would be worthwhile to display the IP address for AM nodes (maybe in a "title" tag which only displays when the mouse pointer hovers over the link). I do not suggest doing this for all posters, there is no need for me to know which IP address a logged-in user is coming from. But if the IP address of the AM were known, it would be much easier for moderators and users to determine quickly whether a particular node is a troll. If someone does not want their IP address recorded and displayed, they can just create an account for themselves and log in.(I realise this proposal is a bit of a blunt sword, because there are ways to hide one's IP address, however it would still be worthwhile to somewhat raise the entry barrier for trolls).

And just to be clear on one point: I am not objecting to posts that worry about the state of Perl or posts that assert the state is a sorry one. People have a right to hold any opinion they want and to post their opinion. But I'd prefer some rational foundation to such arguments when they're given, or even just a reasonable style of posting them.


Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it. -- Brian W. Kernighan

Comment on Dealing with An(?:no|on)ytroll
Re: Dealing with An(?:no|on)ytroll
by mpolo (Chaplain) on Nov 26, 2005 at 17:26 UTC

    I think that the most profitable action is your first suggestion -- don't feed the trolls. The second idea is understandable, but not really quantifiable. The persons moderating the consideration presumably always try to see if there is value/reason to reap in the considered node -- that's why they're experienced monks with this power. One of those nodes had 12 keeps and 11 reaps, which would indicate that a lot of people felt it unnecessary to delete.

    The IP address thing is a blunt sword, as you say, and provides information that most moderators won't even use, IMHO. Maybe the IP could be recorded in the DB and if a large number of nodes from one IP are considered/reaped in a short time, the janitors are notified to look into the situation. But that does expand the db considerably. Is the problem bad enough to require this?

Re: Dealing with An(?:no|on)ytroll
by EvanCarroll (Chaplain) on Nov 26, 2005 at 18:10 UTC

    I would like to propose an alternative option:

    First, we as a community must raise funds to help combat these terrorist infidels. Then, we hire a concoction of the US Delta Force, and ancient Chinese Ninjas to assassinate them and their families while sleeping.

    In the event we can't target these sly trolls, knowing that he is already learned in Java we should do the next best thing; and, begin using the PMM'S (Perl Monk Mercenaries) to systematically assassinate people that post here. We might find him, and we might not. It is a risk I'm willing to take.

    Either that or we can just turn the other cheek....

    All in favor? Feed me!



    Evan Carroll
    www.EvanCarroll.com
Re: Dealing with An(?:no|on)ytroll
by Your Mother (Canon) on Nov 26, 2005 at 19:10 UTC

    How about a one week IP ban for any Anonymous Monk's IP which was the source of 10 reaped nodes within a week? Or adding "1 week IP ban" to things that can be considered by Gods? That way there is still direct judgement and consensus.

      I don't like IP-based bans, they're too much of an on/off switch which can hit the wrong people (think dial-up) and seems too drastic a measure. I thought that displaying the IP address would give additional information to readers which would be useful in their understanding of a node as well as in dealing with it. It appears that most people think even that is too harsh.


      Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it. -- Brian W. Kernighan
Re: Dealing with An(?:no|on)ytroll
by McDarren (Abbot) on Nov 26, 2005 at 19:51 UTC
    I tend to agree with mpolo. At the end of the day, not feeding the trolls is probably the most effective way to deal with them.

    Your other suggestions seem okay on face value, however I suspect that if implemented they could possibly backfire. Trolls seek attention. And that's exactly what you would be giving them. It's a bit like the IRC fools that like to gloat about how many networks they can get themselves g-lined from.

    Just ignore them, I say.

      Side note: I don't think tirwhan would mind (well, at least, I wouldn't mind) anyone gloating about being banned at PM. As long as they weren't here when they did it.

Re: Dealing with An(?:no|on)ytroll
by sauoq (Abbot) on Nov 26, 2005 at 21:37 UTC

    Posts about trolling tend to attract trolls. Let's just ignore the whole issue and let the consideration system work. I don't think we really need much discussion about ways to address trolls anyway, seeing as we've been fairly effective at doing it thus far.

    -sauoq
    "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";
    
Re: Dealing with Anony-troll
by Anonymous Monk on Nov 27, 2005 at 01:53 UTC
    tirwhan wrote:
    But there are some (I believe) simple things that could be done to alleviate them and so I'm proposing to do some or all of the following.
    • Show IP address of Anonymous Monks
    You might be interested in...
    Tor: An anonymous Internet communication system.

      I know tor, in fact I run an exit node and do almost all my web browsing through it (including PM visits). Since the tor exit nodes are published, it would be fairly easy to disallow AM postings through them, or mark these posts as coming through tor. The same goes for most other anonymisers. Again, this does not strike me as something unreasonable, it would prevent AMs from posting from an anonymised IP address, but would not prevent logged-in users. Since there is no need to give any authentication when getting a new username from PM, this means that people can still preserve their real-world anonymity.

      I though about including a passage on tor et al. in my OP, but felt it would sidetrack the main content of the post, and I could always explain that if somebody brought it up. Which you have, so thanks :-).


      Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it. -- Brian W. Kernighan
Re: Dealing with An(?:no|on)ytroll
by GrandFather (Cardinal) on Nov 27, 2005 at 06:38 UTC

    Check out this node for a suggestion concerning the feeding of Trolls. Maybe a couple of weeks on there will be a little more support for this idea?


    DWIM is Perl's answer to Gödel

      I liked the alternative suggestion in that node, which was added as an update, to give AM posts a minimum reputation floor of -9. I was kinda approaching the problem from a slightly different angle, I think consideration and reaping is the way to deal with obvious trolls and wanted to make that somewhat easier.


      Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it. -- Brian W. Kernighan
Re: Dealing with An(?:no|on)ytroll
by spiritway (Vicar) on Nov 27, 2005 at 08:50 UTC

    First, I have to agree with several other Monks who think your first suggestion is the best. Simply don't feed the trolls. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to do this. I keep thinking that a reasonable reply will convince them, but of course they're usually just trying to stir up controversy. So - I'll try to do better in the future and not feed the trolls.

    Reaping would be OK, I guess, but once you start doing that, where do you draw the line? It's one thing to reap an empty post, or a duplicate. If you start reaping ones with content - even trollish content - it begins to resemble censorship. Who gets to decide what's a troll, versus just an unpopular, but valid, point?

    Your idea of publishing Anonymous Monks' IP numbers seems to be excessive. Remember that there are valid reasons why someone posts anonymously, and many AM's post well-considered, respectful messages. Publishing their IP's would be punishing them for not being able to sign in (or being unwilling to do so). AM != troll.

    So, yes, I'll try to restrain my enthusiasm when encountering trollish posts, especially anonymous ones. It's probably the best way to handle it. Being ignored is worse than being smacked down...

      Simply don't feed the trolls. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to do this.

      Yeah, me too :-), my post was as much to remind myself as everyone else.

      Publishing their IP's would be punishing them for not being able to sign in

      Does associating an IP with a post constitute a punishment? I can see where it would be disadvantageous (e.g. if someone is posting from their workplace without permission), but is it too much to ask that someone log in with a user name in order to enjoy anonymity?

      Are there situations where a user can not log in for posting? I thought allowing AM posts was just a convenience thing (so users could post without having to go through the two-minute procedure of registering or the x-second procedure of logging in), but it seems I'm missing something here. What scenarios prevent users from logging in?


      Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it. -- Brian W. Kernighan
        I thought allowing AM posts was just a convenience thing
        Sometimes anonymity is necessary to be able to say things that need to be said, but no one dares to say under their own name.
        Does associating an IP with a post constitute a punishment?

        It does, in my opinion. It is an intrusion into privacy that could potentially lead to problems, but which would appear to serve no useful purpose. The problems, in other words, seem to outweigh the possible benefits. One issue is simply that for many people, their IP number changes from day to day.

        I don't know if there are situations where a user cannot sign in. I do know that quite a few reasonable, respectful, and well-thought comments come from AM, for whatever reason. Maybe they're at work and keystrokes are logged, and they want to avoid giving away their password - I don't know. But some people do post good things anonymously. Still, I am not adamant about all this. I think the community will form a consensus, and that's how we'll go. I might not agree with it, but I'll abide by it...

Re: Dealing with An(?:no|on)ytroll
by Perl Mouse (Chaplain) on Nov 28, 2005 at 11:13 UTC
    Don't feed the trolls.
    Yet you spend an entire thread on them. They can't get a better reward, can they?
    Reap troll nodes more readily.
    "More readily"? More readily than what? Besides, who decides what a troll post is? Sounds like a horrible snake-pit to me.
    Show IP address of Anonymous Monks.
    Don't we have a famous example of someone who wasn't able to use his normal nickname on Perlmonks for a long time, because otherwise his company might have taking steps against him? And isn't this example often used as a prime reason to have anonymous postings? Showing the IP address of Anonymous Monks defeats this. Furthermore, it only targets trolls who didn't create a handle. And it will only keep away those people who 1) don't want to bother creating throw-away nicks (a process that can easily be automated) and 2) would actually care their IP is posted. Of course, it will attract those trolls who'd consider the IP address of the proxy they use to be displayes as a trophy.

    I'd say, deal with the trolls. Ignore them. If you want to change Perlmonks so trolls can be more easily ignored, give people to ability to not see postings of certain people (like the killfiles every decent newsreader has). Then everyone can make their own decision whether or not see postings of anonymous users.

    Perl --((8:>*
      Yet you spend an entire thread on them.

      Yes, I know, and that fact kept me from posting this node for a while. Ultimately I felt it would be worthwhile making the suggestion. I know this can be viewed as one big lump of troll-food, I don't think it actually turned out to be though.YMMV.

      More readily than what?

      More readily than they are being reaped now. Nodes are being considered and reaped for unsuitable content under the current system, which is fine. I feel that this is sometimes done a bit too hesitantly in the face of blatant troll posts. Again, YMMV.

      Regarding the IP address publication, I think you misunderstand my intention. I don't believe that such a measure would prevent trolls from posting per se, but it could make it easier for people to identify the troll and deal with it in whatever way they think best (ignore/downvote/reap). As an example which is not too far from what we've seen recently, imagine there is a thread discussing the marketability of programming language skills. Amongst the replies there are three posts from AM

      1. "Perl is dead and all you people are stupid idiots"
      2. "I heard Perl is dead at conference X from IT celebrity Y, help, will I become unemployed"
      3. "I've talked to the experienced programmers at my company and they told me Perl is an inferior language and I should use XYZ instead"

      Now, I guess we can agree that 1 is a troll. Without knowing anything more about 2 and 3 they may appear as requests for information and lead to people trying to reply in a helpful manner. However, if the node title shows that all three posts came from the same person/IP address I personally would decide that none of them are genuine and not bother replying.

      No it's not perfect, there are ways to get around it and it imposes a hoop on a certain group of users (though I still don't understand, and nobody AFAICS has tried to explain, what the big deal is about creating an unofficial "anonymous" login if one needs that). But it has been my experience that few things in life are perfect and with an issue such as this, which involves social conventions and patterns of behaviour I don't think a perfect solution exists. So I'm looking for one that's better than what we have now.


      Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it. -- Brian W. Kernighan
        However, if the node title shows that all three posts came from the same person/IP address I personally would decide that none of them are genuine and not bother replying.
        This anon troll typically posts replies. You already know from previous posts that this is a troll, and you don't need to reply.

        Do you really think there are people who think "I'm going to reply, oh, no, he may be a troll, I don't know from this posts, but lets browse through old posts and see if there's a matching IP address"? Come on. Half of the people on Perlmonks can't even read the post they are replying to carefully - people aren't going to remember IP addresses, or bother to do crossmatching. And even if half the people on PM do, it's still not going to work - the other half will create the troll droppings.

        Anonymonks monks having their IP addresses listed aren't really anonymous, are they?

        though I still don't understand, and nobody AFAICS has tried to explain, what the big deal is about creating an unofficial "anonymous" login if one needs that
        What's an unofficial "anonymous" login? And, whatever it is, what's keeping trolls from creating it?

        Linking trolls with anonymous monks is like saying "See, there's a notorious driver around who often drives too fast around schools. And he's driving a red car. Let's equip all red cars with a siren, so we know he's coming".

        Perl --((8:>*
Reaped: Re: Dealing with An(?:no|on)ytroll
by NodeReaper (Curate) on Jan 02, 2006 at 20:10 UTC
Re: Dealing with An(?:no|on)ytroll
by demerphq (Chancellor) on Jan 03, 2006 at 14:15 UTC

    I think the main thing we need is to implement a user setting to disable showing reaped nodes (or children of reaped nodes). Then those of us who choose to pretend there are no trolls just wouldn't see them. That would do it for me anyway.

    ---
    $world=~s/war/peace/g

      Without having a clue how much work would be involved, would it make sense to have this (a) as the default, and (b) compulsory for anonymonks? That way, the trolls themselves wouldn't see their posts for long.

      Regards,

      John Davies

        Without having a clue how much work would be involved, would it make sense to have this (a) as the default, and (b) compulsory for anonymonks? That way, the trolls themselves wouldn't see their posts for long.

        I'd like the option, but I wouldn't like it to be the default. Two reasons:

        1. A minor protection from abuse. The more people who see reaped nodes the more people are likely to double check that they should be reaped
        2. In my experience deleting troll posts completely only encourages trolls (as counter intuitive as this may seem). My guess is that they see it as some kind of acknowledgement of their presence. In my experience the best way to treat trolls, if possible, is to make the troll see their post, and to hide it from everybody else. Trolls don't like being ignored and will then wander off.
Re: Dealing with An(?:no|on)ytroll
by DungeonKeeper (Novice) on Jan 04, 2006 at 15:25 UTC
    It seems to me on analysing the evidence that the troll has done his damage whether fed or not, especially given that most readers seem to react too quickly to the face- rather than troll-value of any given post and are then apt to become card-carrying members of the Troll party rather than admit they were trapped into a hasty reaction.

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