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How To Handle a Troll (Es otro)

Howto 2

This is just a mirror of since
it is no longer online.

The /. troll HOWTO

This is version 0.6 of a troll HOWTO, sort of a companion piece to jsm’s
excellent troll FAQ. As a draft, comments and criticism are always
welcome, if not appreciated 馃檪

Section 1 – Trolling techniques

There are techniques used by successful trolls to elicit the maximum
amount of responses from unthinking /.ers. This section is dedicated to
explaining how to use these in the course of your trolls. Remember
though, a great troll can break any or all of these and still be

* *Timing*

Because you’re posting as an AC, your troll will generally be
ignored in favour of posters using their accounts, and so getting
in early is essential. A good guideline is to get into the first
20 posts, so that people reading the article will see the troll
before it is swamped out. One way of increasing the speed with
which you get your troll into play is to prepare them beforehand,
and then quickly customise them for the current article. This is
easier than it sounds since /. typically repeats stories with
small variations and runs lots of similar stories.

Note that this is why Jon Katz stories are pretty worthless as
trolling material – by the time you’ve found the article and
prepared a troll there’s already 50+ posts on it, most of them
flaming Jon Katz anyway 馃檪

* *Exposure*

Once you’ve got your troll in, you need people to actually read
it. You also want replies – /.ers are more likely to read your
troll if it starts a large thread. You also want to remember that
some people have set their comment thresholds to values higher
than 0 – to get the attention of these you either want to get your
post moderated up (see Style, below) or get a reply which gets
moderated up to 4 or 5, in which case your troll becomes visible
to all.

* *Accounts*

An alternative to the time-honoured tradition of AC trolling is
that of creating a “troll” account. This gives you the advantage
of posting at 1 rather than 0, and slashbots are more likely to
take you seriously, especially if you at least sound reasonable.
If you do this, try to avoid posting stuff where it is obvious
you’re a troll under the account – post it anoymously instead –
some slightly more canny readers actually check your user info
before they reply. Not many though 馃檪

The ultimate goal of the troll account is to secure the +1 bonus,
which is currently received once you hit 26 points of Karma. To
get there, employ the techniques of karma whoring that we see
every day on /. and watch the karma roll in. And of course once
you get the +1 bonus, the world is your oyster in terms of /.
Posts made at a default of 2 hit even those people with the
threshold of 2, are more likely to get moderated up even further
if they are at all coherent, and people tend to lose their
critical thinking abilities in the face of the +1 bonus. Milk it
for all it’s worth.

* *Layout*

To get people reading it a troll needs to be easily readable. Make
sure you break it down into easily digestible paragraphs, use HTML
tags where appropriate (but always make sure you close them
properly) and use whitespace appropriately.

* *Size*

Generally a troll shouldn’t be too short, otherwise it’ll get lost
in the crowd. A workable minimum is a couple of medium paragraphs.
Conversely, it shouldn’t be too long, or no-one will bother to
read it. Keep it to a happy medium.

* *Spelling*

Whilst spelling is important if you want the troll to be taken
“seriously”, key spelling mistakes can draw out the spelling
zealots, especially if you mis-spell the name of a venerated /.
hero, like Linus Torveldes or Richard Strawlman (thanks dmg).
Related to this is the use of the wrong word, explaining an
acronym as being something it isn’t or making a word into an
acronym even when it isn’t.

* *Subject*

The subject line needs to draw attention to your post without
making it obvious that it is a troll. A simple statement of the
main point of your argument can work here.

* *Style*

Once you realise that most moderators don’t bother to read past
the first paragraph or two, you can use this fact to craft trolls
that can be moderated up as “Insightful” (note that I mean this in
the /. sense rather than the real-world sense). Start off fairly
reasonable, making statements that are /. friendly and not being
too controversial. As the troll goes on, make it more and more
controversial, building it up for the /coup de grace/ in the final

* *Linking*

As we all know, a post with links

is considered “informative” by the /. crowd. Moderators love it,
and they rarely check the links, so be sure to include as many as
possible. And make them wrong – a link to the Perl website

should instead point to the Python website

instead, and vice versa. The other alternative to incorrect links
is “useful” links to places like


i.e. places /.ers could never have found on their own 馃檪

* *Feeding*

The ideal troll requires no feeding – it runs on its own,
generating flamewars between clueless /.ers for your amusement.
But often a troll requires some help and so you should consider
feeding it. Feeding is best reserved for people making either
completely clueless responses, people making responses with holes
in, or those wonderful people who write a 2000-word point-by-point
rebuttal of your troll.

* *Know your audience*

Always keep in mind the kind of things advocated on /. so that you
can play on and against them. This is why anti-Linux, creationist,
gun-loving, pro-corporation trolls work well – the vast majority
of /.ers hold the opposite viewpoints. And if a few people agree
with you, so much the better – it merely validates your viewpoint
in the eyes of readers.

* *Arrogance*

Be arrogant. You, as a troll, know that you’re right. No other
explanation could exist. The wronger the “fact”, the more
assertively you should state it. Make it clear that you are better
than everyone else – you know the truth and they are just too
stupid to realise it. Use plenty of sarcasm, and use “quotes” to
show it to people too dumb to realise.

* *Offensiveness*

Being offensive in your initial troll can be counter-productive –
it causes moderators to mark you down as flamebait in general. But
if you’re feeding, then you can get away with calling /.ers all
kinds of things. Make broad generalisations about /. readers –
call them “long-haired Linux zealots”, “socialist open-source
bigots” or whatever. Stereotyping is encouraged – people always
want to think that they’re an individual, and will point this out
to you given half a chance.

* *Indifference*

Great for articles with a political or social bent, this kind of
troll expresses complete indifference to the topic at hand,
wondering who on Earth cares about it. An alternative method is to
say that the topic only concerns a certain group of people –
criminals, idiots, hackers (always use this instead of crackers)
or whatever group you want to offend.

* *Sympathy*

Appear to take the same stance as the people you’re trying to
troll – claim you’re as much a fan of Linux as the next man,
but… This way you can make all kinds of claims in the sure
knowledge that you actually know what you’re talking about. A
great phrase to use here is “In my experience”. Remember to act
like all the things you’re pointing out are unfortunate but true.

* *The common touch*

Always accuse /.ers of being elitist. This is an easy thing to do
seeing as a lot of them are. Claim that is their grandmother
couldn’t use it, then they are just into it to feel better than
Joe Sixpack rather than “doing it for the average user”. This is
always great for working into anti-Linux trolls – attack
command-line tools and poorly designed desktops.

* *The 31337 touch*

The opposite of the above. Claim that technology or whatever is
only for the elite of society and that any attempt to open it up
for everyone is wrong, an attack on intellectualism and possibly
even dangerous. If people were meant to understand these things
then they would, and it’s their fault if they’re too stupid to learn.

* *Contradiction*

Never be afraid to contradict yourself, even in the space of a
single sentence. The phrases “I am a top programmer who codes in
VB” or “I am a supporter of open source who uses NT at work and 95
at home” will be sure to get a response from some weenie smugly
pointing out the contradiction. Confuse the issue more by engaging
in contradiction when you are feeding – this will confuse /.ers
who will then make even more stupid replies, leaving them even
more wide open for response.


If you’re feeling brave, give the reader clues that this is an
obvious troll. The classic example here is dmg’s stock phrase “I
am often accused of trolling (whatever that is)”, but also feel
free to use phrases like “I have not read the article, and I don’t
know much about XYZ but I feel I must comment”. If anyone responds
to a troll with these kinds of clues in it, feel free to bask in
the glow of knee-jerk /. responses.

* *Denial*

If you’re unlucky someone will accuse you of being a troll (surely
not!) and try and ruin it for you. If you don’t want it all to end
there, then be sure to counter it by accusing them of being
small-minded and petty, saying that it’s easier for them to say
it’s a troll than to accept that people have different opinions.
Be sure to say this in the subject line, especially if their
subject was the infamous “YHBT. YHL. HAND.”

* *Claiming credit*

Given that /. has its community of regular trolls (hi guys!), it’s
only polite to publish your troll on one of the so-called “hidden”
forums for all to see and admire. This way, you get to bask in the
praise of other trolls, they get to contribute to your’s if they
want to, and you get an easy way to find the troll later on when
you want to check on its progress 馃檪

As for when to post it, that’s a matter of opinion really. You can
either post it straight away or leave it will after people start
biting. Remember that the troll forum is also frequented by
non-trolls, and sometimes you may get a self-declared
“troll-buster” try and expose you. But remember, /.ers always post
before thinking, and often it doesn’t matter at all.

There is no real current forum at the moment thanks to various
spammers hitting the sids, but try trolltalk
the original troll sid started by 80md and osm way back in the
day. Generally all postings are done there as an AC, with your
name at the end of the post. Include a link to the troll somewhere
in the text, which ideally will be directly to the post and its
replies – click on the #XX link in the thread to get there.

* *Ending the troll*

Sometimes you just get bored with a troll, or people start posting
genuinely thoughtful stuff in reply (it does happen). When this
happens it might be time to own up to the troll with a helpful
“YHBT. YHL. HAND.” post. Sometimes people will carry on a
discussion of the issue, and if you’re really lucky (and it was a
great troll) they will completely fail to believe you and carry on
arguing. If that happens, pat yourself on the back for writing a
great troll 馃檪

* *The cheap $3 crack*

Finally, when all else fails and your troll gets moderated down to
(-1, Troll) within ten seconds of you posting it, the only
honourable thing to do is to accuse the moderators of smoking the
cheap $3 crack (again) and give up 馃檨

Section 2 – Types of troll

1. *The Maniac*

Probably the most popular kind of troll, the Maniac holds an
opinion on something, and won’t budge from that opinion no matter
what evidence to the contrary is presented. If challenged, the
Maniac will simply get more and more agitated and abusive,
deriding his opponents as “idiots”, “wrong-thinking”, “dangerous”
and “subversive”. Generally the Maniac takes a position that
opposes the prevalent /. beliefs, but a similar effect can be
achieved by taking a typical /. viewpoint and pushing it to
ridiculous extremes.

Maniacs can be crafted for practically every article /. posts,
although some are more obvious targets than others. Civil liberty
articles, especially on things like censorship, DMCA, UCITA that
really get /.ers riled up, are usually extremely fruitful grounds
for a well-crafted maniac. The other obvious type of article is
anything which could possibly involve religion, especially
evolution 馃檪

Here are some fruitful avenues to explore:

* The Right-Wing Maniac

Always popular, the right-wing maniac (RWM) is a
God-fearing, gun-toting, flag-waving American, and proud of
it. They don’t care about the rest of the world, unless it’s
to “prove” that America is better than everything else, and
they cannot stand liberal whining over civil rights. They
hate the moral decay of America and want it to revert into a
nation of heterosexual, Christian whites like it was meant
to be. Woe betide anyone that dares to suggest otherwise.

* Religion

There are two ways to approach this kind of maniac. The
harder to pull off is the militant atheist, but this is
quite common amongst /. posters and you would have to be
very offensive to get this to work. Of course with religion
trolls, the argument can go on for ever once it’s started…
The more common approach is the Christian fundamentalist.
They are ignorant, intolerant and bigoted in the extreme.
For them the Bible is the inerrant word of God revealed to
man – it contains no flaws and no contradictions. Thus they
are strict Creationists – mentions of evolution or cosmology
will set them off on vitriolic rants. Flaming denunciations
of anyone daring to contradict the “Word of God” are the way
to go, and any kind of proof can always be ignored by
appealing to “secular humanist brainwashing”. And let’s not
forget, the USA is the greatest nation on Earth because it
has the righteous power of Jesus Christ behind it.

* Ideology

Pick a philosophy, any philosophy. This troll is a troll
with a cause – they have found some kind of ideological
truth, and are out to expose every other philosophy as a
sham. Whether it be libertarianism, objectivism, communism
or capitalism, this troll will point out the obvious “flaws”
in any other philosophies, whilst spouting dogma about their
own. And the best thing is – you don’t even need to know
that much about what you’re spouting – making doctrinaire
mistakes will get both sides of the argument flaming you,
adding to the fun.

* Software

This is an old favourite and crops up in many forms,
covering the gamut from OS maniacs (Linux zealots,
MS-apologists or embittered BSD fanatics), language maniacs
(Pascal vs. C, C vs. C++, C++ vs. Java, Perl vs. Python, VB
vs. everything), application maniacs(GIMP vs. Photoshop,
Netscape vs. IE, vi vs. emacs) and also includes people who
complain about how technology should only be for the 31337

* Guns

Americans love their guns, and will always fight
passionately for their Constitutionally guarenteed rights to
bear arms and shoot people. Even the slightest hint of
criticism of this will bring down the wrath of a thousand
and one enraged gun-owners on you, so it’s always a great
point to work into a troll 馃檪

2. *The Expert*

The Expert is someone who is “savvy” in their particular field,
and is perfectly willing to give their opinion on any topic even
vauguely related to their field. The Expert is most likely to be
from a field which /.ers as a rule despise – the classic example
is dumb marketing guy, but try consultants, lawyers, politicians,
lobbyists, executives, journalists (just think Jon Katz). With
this kind of troll sweeping statements with little content are the
norm, along wire dire portents of future catastrophe and dark
hints of “insider knowledge”.

Some possible angles to exploit:

* Industry knowledge

The expert knows the computing industry from the inside – as
a long-term pro, they can dispense knowledge knowing that
they can “speak for the industry”. Their smug
self-satisfaction is bound to annoy, as is any suggestion
that things aren’t the way that /.ers would like it – saying
“Linux requires the rock-solid guarantee of a trusted
company like Microsoft” or “Apache cannot be trusted for
mission-critical enterprise platforms” is guaranteed to get
you denials explaining exactly why you’re wrong, in
excruciating detail.

* Helpful hints

With their tech-savvy (or law-savvy or whatever) experience,
the expert is obviously the best person to point out what’s
wrong with things or to give out useful “factual”
information. In fact this probably works best with lawyer
trolls – for all that /.ers protest “IANAL”, they certainly
seem to think they could be, and any mistakes you make will
send them rushing to prove themselves by correcting you.

3. *Offtopic Trolls*

Not really a “troll” in the strict Jargon File sense of the word,
but they certainly should be included here 馃檪 This category
includes parodies, offtopic weirdness any all kinds of amusing
stuff. Not really my area of expertise, this stuff is mainly done
by gnarphlager and opensourceman. Thanks to gnarphlager for this

Offtopic trolls, like any other, come in almost as many colours as
an iMac, but generally not as cute. But then again, a good
offtopic “troll” can affect more people than a repulsive little
gumdrop on your desk, because you need to have someone SEE your
desk before they can react. Simple? Moreso than even my overblown
prose could indicate. Some basic examples:

1. The serial troll

Write a story. Keep expanding it. It doesn’t matter what
article you post it under, so long as it’s high up. If you
want people to recognize you, pick a couple themes or
symbols, and carry them on throughout the story. Other
alternatives include back linking or including the entire
story, but adding more each time. Be funny if you want. Or
if you don’t feel like being funny, just be really weird.
Someone will react.

2. The random troll

This has nothing to do with anything. Be it a stream of
consciousness rant, or a description of the corner of your
desk. Another favorite is a monologue, read as if spoken
from any one given entity to another. The more outlandish,
the better (a pair of socks talking to a mousepad, for
example). If you really wanted to be artsy, work in an
actual metaphor or legitimate meaning behind it, but it’s
not necessary.

3. The vaguely related troll

Start out with a comment about the article. Have a definite
opinion of it. Then, after a little while, disintegrate into
randomness. All roads eventually can eventually lead to
cheese (yum), Natalie Portman, cannibalism, toasters,
squirrels, futons, you name it. All it takes is a little bit
of creativity. Oh, and feel free to use other trolls’
motifs. Open source and all that 馃槈

General tips:

* If it’s funny for a fleeting moment, then it’s worth posting.
* Puns. Puns are only less vile than mimes, but it’s hard to
mime on /. So feel free/obligated to litter your offtopic
and random bits with puns. Hurt the bastards. And if they’re
sick enough to laugh at them, then they’ll eventually end up
here 馃槈
* Obscure cultural references and injokes are always good.
SOMEONE will get them eventually.
* Several drafts of a serial or random post are common, but
true elegance is being able to come up with something on the
spot that still makes the top 40 posts (on a post-heavy article)

Section 3 – Useful trolling links

The following links contain background information useful for trolls
needing quick quotes and “expert” opinions to include.

1. *General purpose links*


– How to deal with USENET trolls – learn your enemy 馃檪

– A List Of Fallacious Arguments – Learn them and use them



– Fielding’s DangerFinder – A guide to what and where’s

2. *Religious links*


– God Hates America

– The Creed of Christian Reconstruction

– How to cast out your demons and do spiritual warfare

– Things Creationists hate

– Institute for Creation Research

– Operation Clambake – The fight against Scientology on the net

– Citizens for the Ten Commandments

– The difference between Catholics and Christians

– Bible quotes by category

3. *Political/economy links*


– The Ayn Rand Institute

– Libertarian site

– Right-wing stuff

– Excellent site for all kinds of right-wingery

– Web economy bullshit generator

4. *Crackpot science links*


– The Earth Is Not Moving

– The Journal of Irreproducible Results

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Copyright 漏 2001 James Skinner <></>