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March 24, 2009

Victoria Strauss -- Listen Up, Trolls

Given the rash of haters who've been attempting to hijack my comment threads lately, I thought this post from Grammar Girl was especially apt: How to Write a Great Blog Comment. Here's a sample:

Rule #3 -- Be Respectful

I shouldn't have to tell you this, but comments that start out "You're an idiot," are laced with profanity, or are just plain disrespectful, undermine the authority of your argument. Nobody gives much credence to an obnoxious troll. So aside from the pleasure you get from annoying people, you're wasting your time writing such comments.

Oh yeah.

Check out the video, too. It's a hoot.

P.S. This is not aimed at the 95% of you who make funny, informative, relevant, and/or just plain great comments. I love 'em--please keep them coming! I'm talking about people like The Ternisher or this twit, who just want to rant or make trouble.


Jill Elaine Hughes said...

The same goes for snarky bloggers, who post mean and nasty posts just for the sake of being mean.

Mrs. Padgett said...

Thank you so very much for all that you do! I don't quite understand why people are writing such rude comments, but thanks for continuing to blog in spite of them. You really do provide such a fabulous service to new and aspiring writers like myself! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Brian said...

I always love to read your blog Victoria and hate to see a minor few try to derail the comments either since they don't like what you said or just because they can.

I am glad you lead by example in your informative, professional posts. The annominity of the web can bring out the worst in some.

Keep up the excellent work.

Anonymous said...

Like those before me, I too appreciate all that you do.

Anonymous said...

You ternisher you!

Karen Duvall said...

I've had a few of those on my blog, too. The last troll started out: "You just don't get it..." Sigh. Yeah, I get it, all right. What an a$$.

You're wonderful, Victoria. These kinds of negative posters work hard to take good people down. Some people get a thrill out of hurting others. Karma, baby. :)

youngheejin said...

Your blogs are great. Those peope who are disrespectful, who mocks and insults are the ones who might not understand what you're talking about or the ones who can't follow you're thinking.

I'm not saying we should tolerate them but I guess I'm just saying that it would really be nice if those reads and comments are considerate enough because I know for sure that we write are from the bottom of hears and we want to share our work and help.

none said...

Sometimes it's necessary to engage with the trolls in order that other people may benefit from what's posted. Also I suppose we have to resist the urge to open the trapdoor. But why????

Jane Smith said...

For a while there, I didn't dare click on the link to "this twit", just in case it was me!

Ah, Victoria. You get such a great class of trolls. All mine do is swear, or try to sell me little blue pills: yours are funny. Tiresome, I'll agree: but they do make me laugh.

Marion Gropen said...

Keep up the good work, please! We're all much the better for it.

As for the trolls, they're everywhere. I'm a listmom on a couple of the larger listservs for small presses have dealt with similar guff. It's never fun, although it's often funny. (Where are Miss Snark and her cluegun when we need them?!?)

Just know that you have a lot of (generally silent) moral support from the rest of us out here!

G. B. Miller said...

I've had few follow me from the chat rooms to my blogs, trying to troll me by leaving nasty comments.

It was the main reason why I started moderating my comments around Thanksgiving.

But, I did manage to get rid of them once I explained what kind of nifty things my sitemeter tracks.

Sort of nipped it in the bud.

OneCrazyMama said...

Didn't the bible of blogging say there would always be trolls and rumors of trolls?


I enjoy your blog, and just wanted to say add a "don't let theb b@st@rds get you down!"

(I like to trim all of my written work with a delicate lace of profanity, but I use it sparingly. Too much garnish makes any decorating scheme tacky!)

Anonymous said...

That video is fantastic.

But there have been trolls online since before there was an online. I don't think providing rules, even as true as they are, is going to do much to change the conversation. The end result would be the same as trying to teach the Mongol Hordes how to set a table.

Patti said...

great. after reading the gibberishy anon comments, i have a frenchy/cartoony/peppy le pewy accent in my mind that refuses to be quiet.

Traci said...

People sometimes feel like they are big and bad when safetly tucked away behind a computer screen. Very sad! You could always review comments before they are posted, of course that ruins the fun sometimes. Good luck! I don't comment often, but I love reading your blog.

Unknown said...

You DO have the option of limiting your blog comments to prevent anonymous blog posts.

This may seem a drastic step, but most of the troll postings appear to have been from people who prefer to remain anonymous.

If a person can be readily identified from their post, they would usually (usually, mind you) think twice before posting something vicious.

Otherwise, they might ternish their own reputation...

On Blogger there's several levels of filtering comments - on my blogs, it's set to only registered users, but that includes OpenID.

Bill Peschel said...

Oh, by the way, the moment "you're an idiot" is seen is the moment I switch away. Because I don't have time for that.

Unless it's the blog owner delivering the big smackdown in response to your trolling. That I'll make time for.

Anonymous said...

Firsttimeauthoress is now signing as Michele Glass Romney! Sounds a lot like Glance something or other.

Victoria Strauss said...

Thanks, everyone, for the support and the wonderful comments. I can see you all know The Rules!

There are a number of reasons why I don't enable comment moderation, and don't as a rule delete comments, no matter how trollish or personally insulting. For one thing, they're usually self-refuting--trolls usually convict themselves out of their own mouths, and if people want to make fools of themselves in public, who am I to stop them? There's also, sometimes, an intent to intimidate, as with the several "You're Next" comments I've gotten lately about a certain recent defamation lawsuit. (Watch this space, by the way.) I think that letting such comments stand defeats their purpose more thoroughly than getting rid of them.

The trolls also serve a purpose. By making the opposite argument, they often lend more weight to mine.

More important, though, is that if I'm going to express opinion, I've got to tolerate dissent. One of the things the haters often accuse me of is stifling points of view other than my own. If I moderated comments, or deleted the nasty ones, I couldn't convincingly argue that I don't do that. I've had to temporarily enable comment moderation a time or two when people started attacking each other, to avoid a protracted flame war; and I admit that after The Ternisher's 20th ranting comment, I did start deleting her. But other than that, anyone is free to post a comment here--and if they do, it will not be removed. Because if what I have to say isn't strong enough to withstand a few trolls, I might as well not say it.

AndieJ said...

I especially enjoyed the "ternisher" annonymous comment: "Your site is premised on a particular view of what authors and publishers ought to do."

Hmmmm. They must mean that bizarro theory we've all been batting aroung = Authors write. Publishers pay authors for the right to publish their writing. When it works the other way, it's called "Vanity" publishing.

It's also amusing that these highly offended authors feel that the "vanity publishing" definition has anything to do with the quality of their writing. You could be a literary genius, it doesn't matter.Paying to publish is paying to publish.

AndieJ said...

I should have placed my last comment at the bottom of the other blog comments (where the ternisher had lurked) & I'm afraid I don't know how to delete & move it.

Also, you're always incredibly fair, balanced & completely diplomatic. You do a wonderful job.

Mad Scientist Matt said...

Just had to delete a linkspam comment from my own blog. I wish Blogger allowed me to simply edit out the URLs. I did consider making snarky comments about it, but he probably wouldn't have read them - this guy was probably just trying to get more Googlejuice.

Trolls can be entertaining in small doses. The Ternisher is a shining example - if you have a, well, distinctive writing style like that, it's not a good idea to try creating a bunch of sock puppets and pretend they are different people. But I'd imagine this must get annoying after a while.

Keep fighting the good fight!

S.D. said...

Yeesh... Some people aren't gonna like people lifting up the dark rocks they live under.


P.S. That firsttimeauthoress person didn't even spell the URL of her blog right when she gave it ("fist" instead of "first")

Anonymous said...

Dear Victoria,
I think that by taking these nuts seriously, you have been the victim of a massive joke. The comments by the various people signing as anonymous are usually posted in unnaturally quick succession, meaning that the same person is typing up the messages as if s/he is a number of different people. You have been bamboozled. The writing of the supposedly French/Chinese authors ranges from Shakesperian to kindergarten/James Bond foreigner style. these people just want to egg you on, and by being impressed by this nonsense and replying to it, you are being made a laughing stock. One minute they are serious "Doctors" with academic arguments, the next they are sub-elementary school level nut jobs who can barely put a sentence together. Let them rave alone.Robert

Anonymous said...

Oh, you're so right in your last reply, Victoria! That particular species of trolls manage to prove the exact opposite of what they say... When they actually say something that makes any sense at all after stripping the insults.

Eirin said...

after reading the gibberishy anon comments, i have a frenchy/cartoony/peppy le pewy accent in my mind that refuses to be quiet.

Oh, thank goodneess. Not just me then :)

And a wholehearted Thank You to Victoria for doing good work with such flair and style.

AndieJ said...

Annon 3/24/2009 9:38 PM

Victoria is well aware that all of those posts were done by the same person.

The only reason she posted any responses to the trolling was to point out (for the benefit of any newbie passersby who might not be familiar with the situation & content) all of the discrepencies in the troll's accusations. For instance, pointing out that the troll was flat out lying about what 'she' had said in her blog post.

I can assure you that none of her intelligent followers see her as a laughing stock, & neither will anyone who actually takes the time to become acquainted with Writer Beware Blogs as a whole.

Victoria Strauss said...

Thanks, ALC.

Robert, I assure you I haven't been bamboozled. But I do salute you for inventive trolling.

Eirin said...

Robert, I want to thank you for introducing bamboozled into the conversation. I love that word. It's so deliciously...chewy. Yeah, chewy.

Deb said...

Where do I sign up to get ternished? Sounds kinky to me.

Anonymous said...

Victoria, this is the same Robert that you accused of being a troll. I'm not sure I understand your attack since I was defending you. I honestly can't believe that these people are meant to be taken seriously. That's all I was saying. I agree with Frank and others commenting on the other post that the whole thing is so bizarre that it doesn't deserve serious consideration. That's all I was saying. But if you wish to think that I'm a 'troll', fair enough. I've followed your work for some time now and think it's great that you spend so much time tracking down people who want to make money dishonestly. I just think in this case that these nutters are having you on. A couple of weeks ago a Dr. Tim Kaiser seemed to delight in having his unusual pyramid scheme exposed. He just seemed to be out to grab attention. I didn't mean to be a 'troll'. I think that what you do here (at obviously no gain to yourself, but wishing to help others protect themselves) is important. No harm intended, seriously. And keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Eirin, my use of the word 'bamboozled' may have seemed unusual to you. On the teletext service of Channel 4 in the UK in the 1990s, there was this little daily quiz. You had to answer the questions correctly in progressive levels of difficulty. If you answered wrong, a little figure came up on the screen with the message YOU HAVE BEEN BAMBOOZLED and you had to start over again. I'm not sure if I remember this 100% accurately and it doesn't seem to be familiar to Americans. For this reason, Victoria seems to have got a bit upset with me. But no harm was intended. Sincerely. I'm just a product of my circumstances. I've lived abroad for many years since then and I must have imagined that it had entered the vernacular. Obviously it hasn't. Sorry to anyone who was offended. In my mind it was a harmless misunderstanding. i agree that it sounds like a nice word, chewy, I belive you said and I agree with you. I wish it had become part of the language.

Janny said...


"Bamboozled" IS part of the language...and far from an esoteric word. Some of us use it all the time.

The comment about introducing it into the conversation was just that--an indicator that it hadn't been in the conversation before, not that it wasn't part of the language!

Me, I like to make up words, like "befruzzled." It's very clear to most people what that means. :-)


Victoria Strauss said...

Robert, sorry for perhaps misinterpreting your original comment. I was responding to your statement that I "was being made a laughing-stock." Do you really think I didn't figure it out?

I (sometimes, not always) respond to idiot comments to show I'm keeping an eye on things (occasionally people post scurrilous comments on older posts, perhaps thinking I don't know about them) and also to let the trolls know I see through their games. Obviously, if a troll accuses me of running Writer Beware in order to exert mind control over the helpless newbie writer masses, I'm not going to bother to respond. But if the accusation is something that anyone might take even halfway seriously--such as accusing me of calling someone a scammer when I didn't--I feel I need to respond. Failing to dispute such allegations--even if they're from insane people--is tantamount to admitting that you can't dispute them. Or at least, many people may interpret it that way.

I'm not aware that "bamboozled" is a word unfamiliar to Americans. In fact, it's the title of a fascinating and trenchant, if not entirely artistically successful, movie by American filmmaker Spike Lee.

Anonymous said...

And Kramer used it in Seinfeld. Remember when he became a communist Santa Claus and told the children: "Hey, kid, you're being bamboozled, these toys are put together in sweat shops by kids younger than yourself." Then he got fired. That was hilarious!

wealhtheow said...

Just wanted to join in on the Thank you for the sterling work you do on this blog refrain :)

BradleyRobb is right: there have been trolls always.

They used to write cranky Letters to the Editor; now they can write cranky and insane comments on blog posts, which means that far less effort is required (no paper, no ink, no envelope, no looking up the address, no purchasing of stamps, no trip down the block to the mailbox), so I suppose it's only natural that the species has proliferated so dramatically.

Deb said...

"Befruzzled" IS a word. Or ought to be.

If a known word doesn't communicate, I simply make one up. It's always worked before...

Mad Scientist Matt said...


Interesting point. Internet trolls can seem like something new, but now that you mention it I can think of some letters to the editor that I've seen make it into print that must have been written with much the same sort of mentality in mind. Like one person who wrote to a Christian magazine accusing Christians of worshiping trees (and a lot of other weird remarks). It had about the same combination of inflammatory rhetoric with claims that make you wonder if the writer really believed them that you'd see in a good troll post.

wealhtheow said...

@MSM -- yes, exactly. And we only ever see the letters that the newspaper or magazine chooses to publish; who knows how much more trollish the ones they don't publish might be?

Many years ago I was the editorial assistant for a quarterly journal in history, and one of my jobs was to open all the mail -- which included a (to me) quite astounding amount of completely wacko correspondence. We never published any of it, of course, because that journal doesn't publish letters to the editor, and AFAIK it never has ...

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