Monday, April 15, 2002

Deconstructing the Troll

By  John C. Mahler

Writing ignorant abuse to garner links, or trolling, looks to be the fastest-growing hobby on the Internet, and I've been studying the phenomenon to death. I intend to do my own troll, but I wanted to have a better understanding of what constitutes a really great troll.

The way I see it, there are two kinds of troll. Faux trolls can be set up by authors promoting books or newsletters, or they can be periodicals posing as trolls to get attention from bloggers. To me, the true troll is an ignorant recitation of prejudices, designed to undermine debate. I've deconstructed over 100 such trolls. This analysis led me to produce some formulae for a successful troll. Here are my Eight Rules for the Perfect Troll.

1. The right attitude. Make it clear that you spend the day, week, or month sitting on your rump reciting your prejudices instead of reading others' thoughts and perspectives. Or if you actually work, make it clear that you are writing the troll at work, because you hate thinking.

2. Community. Prove that you're a dedicated troller by citing at least five stereotypes. Repeat them ad hominem. Don't ever include examples or links, or anything at all to justify your absurd prejudices. If you're trying to jazz up your troll, number the points. Sentence teasers work well too. "The right attitude" or "Community" or "Rich language"

3. Humility. Troll weekly. If you miss a week, use the next weeksentire column to abuse profusely. Avoid explanation in detail or fascinating adventures. Make sure to rant about how dumb blogging is and why everyone should avoid it. Try not to show your fear though.

4. Rich language. Show that you're an insensate chained spirit by adding a lot of banality to your text. Cliched headlines and general abuse show people that you are an derivative writer not bound by the silly conventions of logic—those lousy rules that make you have to write something inspiring when you should be getting a check from PC Magazine just for joining cliches end to end!

5. Jargon. Pepper your text with big ugly ads from Intel, Dell, Micron, and other opportunites for getting spam. Make sure the only links on the page are paid for, and never give useful or relevant information, just contain buzzwords.

6. Controversy. Make sure your troll page has a clunky, registration-required comment system, and hound those you attack to use it. If they say anything cogent, censor their posts, make a public outcry and demand to be returned to the place of honor, or threaten to take their posts off your list. Go through this routine weekly with someone. Send them spam after they register

7. Humor. Give your troll a high tone name, perhaps even using a word you don't understand. "Deconstructing the Blog."

8. Specialize. If you want to trumpet the fact that you're a clueless fossil, include a photo of yourself in brown shirt with wire rimmed spectacles. No-one thinks of these as with connotaions of lying propogandists any more.

Finally, for all trollers, consider using a Romantic Composer's name as your own.