In running a successful discussion forum one of the problems an administrator is likely to come up against sooner or later is the troll. Although these so-called trolls can be disruptive, they can also aid in getting some good discussions going, and in keeping threads alive. To establish what a troll in Internet terms means, here’s what one forum has deemed one to be, and has created a specific rule to prevent trolling. “NO TROLLING – mischievously manufacturing inflammatory opinions in an attempt to stir up disharmony and discord. No posting up a stream of off-topic drivel or being clumsily provocative.”
Now, of course this doesn’t mean putting a stop to healthy disagreements. No one wants or expects a forum where every member agrees 100% with each other on all subjects. Rather, the rule is intended to prevent a certain member from taking over a thread, or threads, in order to be disruptive. Often, it just seems that one particular member will do almost anything to make themselves heard, whether they contribute to the forum or not.
When we think of one of the meanings for trolling, in fishing it’s to slowly drag bait through water. Perhaps the expression suitably fits those who like to dangle off topic drivel in their posts in order to get other members to take the bait and go on the attack against the originator of the post. I also think the second meaning equally applies, that of obnoxious creatures in folklore who are intent on causing mischief and to destroy or tear down. A forum with trolls is one where very often there’s a lot of sarcasm, where infighting takes place, and the normal member gets very frustrated. Threads go off-topic, and shouting matches become the norm. Trolls tend to be repetitive, as though saying something over and over again will somehow make others take notice.
So, yes to healthy arguments, discussion, and disagreements. But, if a forum is to truly thrive, with the majority being heard, trolls need to be kept in their place.