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