I'm an occasional monastery visitor that really loves this site, and yearns for the time to become a more permanent resident (hopefully, sometime soon)!

Being away from the culture so much I miss out on lots of stuff, but the most annoying for me is getting caught feeding the trolls (when I'm too lazy to do my research first). Late last year, cop got me a few times before I figured out who/what he/she was/is. Recently, I was reading Discourage Trolling and sympathized with what moritz suggested, but understood the downsides of the implementation.

I wonder if a slightly different solution would be to change the display of a monk's id, so that if they require penance the foreground characters of their id would be in a different color, say red? This way, it would at least be a warning anywhere that id shows up, that extra care is required. I don't believe this would be too hard to implement and I think the benefits would help folks like me, be a bit more careful. Thoughts?


Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Penance Highlighting?
by Tanktalus (Canon) on Jul 08, 2008 at 18:44 UTC

    Any time you highlight a troll, you feed them. This is exactly the type of attention they yearn for. That's why we don't show XP totals that are less than zero - to keep them from being able to "earn" a more trollish score.

    Though this is an interesting idea, I think it needs some tweaking to keep from feeding the trolls. That is, whatever highlighting is given would only be seen by users with at least a minimum of (positive) XP. This would disclude anonymous monks (since the trolls would otherwise be able to log out and gloat over their highlighting) and the trolls themselves. That minimum level, however, would need to be carefully chosen - not so low as to be trivially attained by the trolls (say with another user account), but not so high as to be useless to the new monks who would likely be in more need of such a function.

    Personally, I can't come up with a perfect solution. I'm not sure there is one. But I don't see a problem in incremental movements toward that perfection, carefully weighing the balance between the trolls and the trolled.

      Any time you highlight a troll, you feed them. This is exactly the type of attention they yearn for.

      Maybe we should make their nodes harder to approve, then? For example require 3 or even 5 approval nodes for a root node by somebody with negative XP.

      I think that could work, because harmless questions will get them fairly fast, and troll postings won't as easily. And I'm rather suspicious when I see a post which isn't all that new and isn't approved yet.

      For a user below the level in which you gain approval an consideration powers, all seems normal, except that the nodes aren't approved as fast as before, and hopefully not at all in the case of troll posts. Only experienced users would notice a difference in the UI.

        Why are they being approved in the first place? If it is just because the approver at the time does not recognize it as a troll, I would agree with your suggestion.

        <(^.^-<) <(-^.^<) <(-^.^-)> (>^.^-)> (>-^.^)>
        ++ : brilliant idea
      whatever highlighting is given would only be seen by users with at least a minimum of (positive) XP

      How about if we simply add some css markup on the name — say, <span class="penitent">$monkname</span> — ? Then, monks who are so inclined can add something to their On-Site CSS Markup to highlight the name in some way. Those who are not so inclined will see no difference, and Anonymous Monk will have no option.

      Between the mind which plans and the hands which build, there must be a mediator... and this mediator must be the heart.

        I actually thought about that in my initial reply to the OP, but discarded it since the point seemed to be to help new monks adjust to the trolls - which would be the very same people who wouldn't know to change their CSS. If anything, we'd have to go the other way to help the new monks: add this to the CSS of new users while experienced ones could go and update their CSS to remove it. Not a lot better in my estimation, but still would be there to advise the new monks.

        That said, it still doesn't quite help in cases where a troll may have multiple accounts - one for trolling, and one for reading (where they'd see their own highlights and get their kick from it). Not that any solution would do this perfectly, but a small barrier to entry may still be quite helpful here.

        I think that is an excellent suggestion. I'd probably apply the class to the whole node.

        I can see Tanktalus' point of it being less useful to the relatively novice or casual visitor. But I think the people who would really benefit from such visual cues are a certain class of user not solely novice/casual visitors. So I agree that it wouldn't help some people who could use the help, but I like the idea of it requiring a tiny bit of effort to activate it (and people being able to choose their own visual marker) so that it is a feature that people have to choose to use which will lead to it being less fretted over by the rest of "us". (I don't think novice/casual visitors would recognize the point of a subtle label anyway.)

        Another idea that occurred to me was a lack of label for presumed trolls. We could show the author's current level next to their name in the by-line header. We would display no level for anonymous nor for sub-zero-XP authors.

        I'd show the level name not the level number as I think the level number would be too easy to overinterprept as some indication of vetting. The level names would be a more playful addition. I think it would nicely enhance the XP game without over emphasis (which causes problems).

        I haven't bothered to check whether the recent batch of characteristicly careless, terse, judgemental, anonymous replies are from one of the usual suspects. I only mention them to note that the current trolling is likely to be anonymous and thus these proposed changes won't apply.

        Perhaps downvotes to anonymous nodes should be recorded against the high three bytes of the source IP address so that future anonymous nodes from the same "class C" can be similarly subtly tagged?

        - tye        

      While it's true that any time you highlight a troll you feed it you need to move beyond one meal and look at the big picture. I would be happy to give a troll a cookie today if that means it starves to death tomorrow. The real question is:
      Will the net result of any countermeasure result in more or less food for the troll?
      I really like Tanktalus's approach. ++
Re: Penance Highlighting?
by kyle (Abbot) on Jul 08, 2008 at 20:26 UTC

    I agree with Tanktalus that putting a troll's name in lights is what they're after. (I'm reminded of Luke in Mos Eisley confronted with someone saying, "I have the death sentence on twelve systems" as if this is a prize.) I generally agree also with tye in Re: Discourage Trolling (effects)—highlighting doesn't do much good. It's tempting to try to find a way to show trolliness without the trolls being able to claim the prize of trolliness, but that seems contradictory right away.

    My only thought was to put the big red flag on the "Comment on" page when someone goes to reply to the troll. However, considering all the other succulent clues on that page that are routinely ignored by users most needing those clues, I'm not convinced that another helpful hint will be heeded either.

Re: Penance Highlighting?
by Argel (Prior) on Jul 09, 2008 at 01:12 UTC
    I was going to say that replies to a troll will likely get downvoted and result in a good learning experience. But then I noticed that you 1) mentioned the troll by name and 2) actually linked to the troll's home node!! Looks like he got you again -- without even trying! :-)

    All kidding aside, I can see some benefit in highlighting based on penance but I'm not convinced it's worth it. Not all trolls are created equal and there are examples on this site where some people consider a user to be a troll while others find the posts humorous. Do we really want to go down the path of branding someone with a scarlet letter??

    Ignoring all of that, I'm not actually convinced we have a problem with trolls posting from an actual account. The methods discussed in Do Not Feed the Trolls!!! should be enough to deal with them.

    The real problem is with Anonymous Monk. Any countermeasure we use to deal with trolls posting from an actual account will drive them towards posting anonymously. That's where the real battlefield will be and that is where we should be focusing our attention.

      I was going to say that replies to a troll will likely get downvoted and result in a good learning experience.

      If only. I downvote a fair number of troll-food replies (replies to trolling nodes) and they almost always still end up with a positive reputation. There appear to be plenty of people who upvote the misguided taunters of trolls and also the unaware responders.

      - tye        

        That's true. It seems like your node on what a troll really is should be required reading for everyone.

        For what it's worth I also make an effort to downvote responses to trolls.

Re: Penance Highlighting?
by Zen (Deacon) on Jul 08, 2008 at 21:49 UTC
    Extra care at what, though? A question is legitimate or it isn't. As an anarchist, I resist the idea of labeling the 'socially disapproved' in some kind of strange 'Santa' list.
Re: Penance Highlighting?
by mr_mischief (Monsignor) on Jul 25, 2008 at 18:29 UTC
    The level of vindictiveness on PM is a bit alarming. Yes, we've had some trouble with trolls. We've had some disagreements about how to deal with them. I don't think the site has suffered from trolling so much that it has lost what makes it a great resource and community. Trolling here is distracting and annoying, but it has yet to endanger the overall quality of the site.

    I'm not sure why people are suggesting courses of action such as labeling a node as trollish just because the poster has some negative XP. A new monk could easily have a couple of nodes that have bad coding ideas in them or are a little too brash without being a true troll. Do we really want to welcome them to the site by labeling nodes as trollish until they are vetted? That seems like a drastic overreaction that, while well intentioned, would likely prove to be counterproductive.

    I do kind of like the idea of multiple approvals for nodes whose authors have negative XP. It's much more private and less accusative. It might even work to need two until the monk is past initiate, and three or more (depending on the level of negative XP perhaps) for those with negative XP. It still seems like something that takes an awful lot of time away from the purpose of the site, which is to discuss all things Perl.

    I am one of those who sometimes mistakes a bullheaded but honestly concerned person for a troll and sometimes vice versa. I'd imagine most of us have done so on occasion. Without a pattern of activity from someone showing a clear trend, it can be hard to tell if someone is crossing the line between heated discussion and outright trolling. Trolling and flamebaiting arise not from some abyss somewhere, but because people respond to it. People don't respond to it because they approve of it, but because they aren't paying attention. That leads me to the social fix for trolling: pay attention.

Re: Penance Highlighting?
by Lawliet (Curate) on Jul 08, 2008 at 18:42 UTC

    I support the idea. Reminds me of sex offenders having to put a sign in their yard stating so. Actually, it sounds the exact same as them doing so.

    <(^.^-<) <(-^.^<) <(-^.^-)> (>^.^-)> (>-^.^)>
Re: Penance Highlighting?
by ruzam (Curate) on Jul 10, 2008 at 16:07 UTC
    I think every node should have a category in addition to xp: useful, humorous, troll

    Registered users would vote on the node category (anonymous monks would have no say). The current majority vote category would be displayed next to the node title (maybe in different colours and/or with a vote count). Penance monk nodes would automatically start life as a single vote for 'troll'. Regular monks can vote their own node 'humorous' to set the tone, otherwise, monks can't vote their own node category. Note the category would continue to change and evolve as more users see fit to vote. The category (and voting it) would be in no way related to xp. The category could be a filter option in Super Search and a personal view filter option for monks.

    A 'troll' rating may be the badge of honor a troll is looking for, but once labeled I'm not inclined to follow the rabbit down the hole. Therefore I think that labeling trolls does more over all good than harm.

      I don't like the idea of categories because they legitimize noise. Plenty of times, I've thought of one wise-ass remark or another, and I've not written it because I know very well it's a lousy contribution to a discussion. I might not have been so discrete, however, if I'd had the shelter of labeling it 'humor', and I think the site would have suffered for it.

      Of course, I've gone ahead and posted some of my wise-ass remarks also. It sounds good to have those labeled, but I think I'd rather have less unlabeled noise than more noise—but with labels.

        Ah, but if it's labeled, and you have the means to adjust your preferences to filter it, then your noise level actually drops, despite the encouragement to add more noise by others.

        I've spewed my milk at the monitor on occasion thanks to a good piece of irrelevant humor here. It can be a welcome addition to a slow day :) But there are also times when I just want to cut through the noise and get straight to the point. Having categories and the option to filter based on them would help this I think.
Re: Penance Highlighting?
by cmv (Chaplain) on Jul 11, 2008 at 16:39 UTC

    I've been following the discussion both here and in A request from level 21 over the past couple days, and have these thoughts to offer:

    1.) Although I enjoy seeing the level in parenthesis next to an authors name (one of my current favorites is Zen (Friar) - sounds like an enlightened poultry item :-) I too find myself focusing on the level of the poster and having that influence my expectations, before ever reading the article. Also, not preserving the level of the author at authoring time seems to be a valid issue to me. I would reluctantly vote to put things back the way they were.

    2.) My original intent was to provide a mechanism to warn folks like me, that the poster currently requires penance (however I can also see an argument for indicating that the author required penance at posting time). Although some of the suggested implementations (including mine) may not be the best solution, I believe the goal still is a worthwhile one, and would like to continue looking for an acceptable solution with the least amount of bad side-effects.

    3.) It was never my intention to make anyone feel uncomfortable by either highlighting or promoting religious themes, or trolls in general.

    I wonder if maybe the solution might be as simple as putting (Penance) next to an authors name, whenever they post an article while needing penance? I understand that some may think this is helping trolls get what they want, by adding something to their posts - but I think the cost-benefit would be justified (particularly if it was an opt-in thing).

    ...just my 2 cents.