Dealing with Trolls

I've been blessed over my blogging career to have had very few problems with trolls--anonymous readers who leave valueless, condescending, hurtful and even profane comments on blogs and message boards.

One of the blogs I follow is facing a particularly nasty troll problem right now (I'll leave the blog unnamed for now since I don't want to feed that troll with any extra attention), and it prompted me to bring up the issue of trollery with my readers.

It's a lot easier to take down someone else's work than it is to generate creative work of your own. And if you decide to criticize someone's work, it's much easier to be snarky or condescending than it is to be constructive. And let's face it: there will never be a shortage of flaws to criticize in the blogging world. Even really good blogs say dumb things sometimes, and even the articles that I'm most proud of here at Casual Kitchen have plenty of flaws.

But it's the discussion of those flaws in a civil and constructive manner that helps us all become better and smarter at what we do. So when a troll leaves comments on my colleague's blog (the particular troll I'm speaking of corrected a minor spelling error, left a series of comments criticizing the blogger's religion and birthplace, and then went on make condescending remarks on several other out-of-bounds subjects), it goes without saying that this is not only useless to readers, but it's also a waste of everyone's time--including the troll's.

Of course, you could look on the bright side: once you have your very own troll dedicated to criticizing you, you can say you've truly arrived as a real blogger.

There are two schools of thought on handling trolls. Either face them down and risk giving them the attention they want, or ignore them and starve them of attention until they leave.

A healthy percentage of my readers are also bloggers, so what "troll" experiences have you had? What were mistakes you've made and what were the successes have you had in handling them?

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Melissa said...

I've never really had to deal with trolls, thank goodness. I have seen it on other people's sites though and it stinks. I really don't know the answer is anything but to ignore them.

I did get one bad comment on my personal blog a long time ago from an Anonymous. It was a post about a TV ad talking about exercise and weight loss and something I found hilarious about it and someone came along and called us all fat pigs basically, called me a nasty name personally, and then made rude remarks about my dad (deceased) and how if he had been healthy... etc.

Hm. Why again did I not delete this scmuck's comment? I don't know. Felt like I was being the bigger person I suppose.

Regardless, I am always amazed at the anonymous cruelty online. Pathetic.

Melissa said...


As if I haven't already rambled enough, what I also meant to say here was that clicking on your old posts led me to read a lot of your other old posts... you make it easy to link from one good topic to another through referencing back in your posts. Love reading your stuff! Such good tips and advice.

Daniel said...

Hi Melissa,
Thanks so much for the positive thoughts!

I think I would have done the same with that comment... Just leave it out there hanging for all to see. I guess anonymity is the biggest blessing and the biggest curse of the internet, isn't it?


jh said...

I haven't heard of the word 'troll' before, that is great. I haven't had much experience with them, but I do agree that dealing with them in a way that makes them accountable is the best way to go. I, personally, try to leave mostly constructive and encouraging comments, since most blogs, including yours, are pretty great.

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Shanbanan said...

I've seen them around. Don't have a blog, so it's not been a personal issue with me. But I've been part of other things where trolls have showed up.

Unfortunately, what the owners of the board ended up doing is requiring everyone who posted anything to register as a user. That kept the trolls away, but it's more of a hassle now to take part. Trolls are just that--irritating and mean spirited who take away from everyone else's enjoyment. Ugly people

Amanda @ Mrs.W's Kitchen said...

I guess I haven't arrived. :) I've had the occasional negative comment but nothing too horribly offensive. I usually find something decent to say about the negative comment and reply that way.

If it was something really ugly and personal, I'm not sure what I would do. I'm generally against just deleting the comment--somehow in my mind it's taking a coward's way out by simply deleting. (Though I do delete shameless ads with no bearing on the topic.)

Natalie Que said...

Hey Dan,

This was a great post and I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on it. I think I know the blog you may be speaking of... I kid, of course I know which blog.

Anyway, in looking back at my situation, I learned a TON about what to do for next time {though hoping there won't be a next time!|. I think it all worked out in the end for me, I apologized and the situation was completely diffused, but it was way too painful of a road to get there. I realize I should have just continued ignoring the comments as I had done in the past. The situation didn't need to go on like it did, and I could see areas where I was to blame for sure. However, sometimes you need to go through the lesson before you really can understand, so I actually can't say I have regrets because I did learn a lot from it.

I've learned a big lesson, and seeing what Gov. Palin is going through with David Letterman has only burned it deeper into my mind. DL's comments about her daughter were obviously inappropriate -but her going all knee-jerk about it made things worse. I know it is strange to bring this up with blogging, but it just brought home to me that people see the trolls for who they are, people get it that they are nasty, they see the situation playing out and they understand. You don't need to make yourself look nasty in turn by reacting to who they are, what they say, or what they do. Let people come to your defense instead of reacting.

But it is difficult when you feel attacked on your own domain. Our blogs are very much sacred places to us. And I can understand Melissa's comment from above on not knowing what to do or if she should delete the comments. These trolls make you feel totally backed into a corner -because you know any kind of a reaction, even no reaction, is exactly what they are looking for. They just want to get you where it really hurts, and they take any kind of reaction as a victory, or at least it feels like that when it is you going through it.

Anyway Dan, your blog is so great and always has wonderful, pertinent subjects that I so enjoy reading and thinking about!

Daniel said...

Hi HG:

You make a number of really good points, particularly the notion of being attacked in your own domain. It's extremely hard to ignore trollery--and even harder to avoid becoming defensive--when that happens.

Thanks for sharing, and thank you for your positive vibes!


chacha1 said...

Hi Dan, I'm lurking around again picking through your archives. Which I very much enjoy btw.
:-) I have a very low-profile and little-read blog but even I have gotten a troll comment. I blinked at it for a minute thinking, does this even have anything to do with my post? When the answer was clearly No, and since the comment added nothing of value to the world, I deleted it.