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Why Trolls Win With Toxic Comments 298

Posted by Soulskill
from the bring-you-down-to-their-level-and-beat-you-with-experience dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Web is a place for unlimited exchange of ideas. But according to an NPR report, researchers have found that rude comments on articles can change the way we interpret the news. 'It's a little bit like the Wild West. The trolls are winning,' says Dominique Brossard, co-author of the study on the so-called 'Nasty Effect.' Researchers worked with a science writer to construct a balanced news story on the pros and cons of nanotechnology, a topic chosen so that readers would have to make sense of a complicated issue with low familiarity. They then asked 1,183 subjects to review the blog post from a Canadian newspaper that discussed the water contamination risks of nanosilver particles and the antibacterial benefits. Half saw the story with polite comments, and the other half saw rude comments, like: 'If you don't see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these products, you're an idiot.' People that were exposed to the polite comments didn't change their views really about the issue covering the story, while the people that did see the rude comments became polarized — they became more against the technology that was covered in the story. Brossard says we need to have an anchor to make sense of complicated issues. 'And it seems that rudeness and incivility is used as a mental shortcut to make sense of those complicated issues.' Brossard says there's no quick fix for this issue (PDF), and while she thinks it's important to foster conversation through comments sections, every media organization has to figure out where to draw the line when comments get out of control. 'It's possible that the social norms in this brave new domain will change once more — with users shunning meanspirited attacks from posters hiding behind pseudonyms and cultivating civil debate instead,' writes Brossard. 'Until then, beware the nasty effect.'"
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Why Trolls Win With Toxic Comments

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  • F U (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 16, 2013 @12:39PM (#43191241)

    That's Why.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by dadelbunts (1727498)
      I am now polarized against this story. THANKS!
      • Re:F U (Score:5, Funny)

        by Internal Modem (1281796) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @12:44PM (#43191275)
        If you don't see the benefits of trolls winning with "Toxic Comments," you're an idiot.
        • Re:F U (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Penguinisto (415985) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @01:18PM (#43191545) Journal

          Ah, trolling. :)

          Back in the days of USENET, it was (once) an art form. It served the purpose of getting a good giggle at the expense of blind ideologues (of any subject), and to force the lurking observers to mentally dig deeper - to more thoroughly examine their beliefs and what they thought they knew. It was an excellent way to explore concepts outside of orthodoxy, and challenged the status quo. At its highest expression, a good troll will spark further research into a subject (if only to win an argument), and served the noble purpose of everyone learning something new in the end.

          Now? Bah - in most cases, it's become pedestrian at best, and often shows the low intelligence of the troll.

          Interestingly enough, it is nowadays employed by corporate and political entities via mechanical turk - like astroturfing, but in reverse. For instance, take politics: Lurker sees a bucket of misspelled repugnant garbage posted in opposition to a particular viewpoint, and thinks that it represents nearly everyone else who opposes said viewpoint. Suddenly, that 'team' is tainted, swaying the lurker towards the troll's real viewpoint. It's an effective way to create discord in the ranks of those whom you want to diminish, and is employed quite often. It also provides "proof" that The Other Side is a bunch of racists/pedophiles/whatever, thus their motives are evil, wrong, etc.

          Dishonest as hell, but hard to see through from the casual lurker's eye. And, well, TFA proves that a lot of it works.

          So what was once a sport that some of us did long ago for a bit of intellectual fun [baetzler.de], has now become either the epitome of lame-assed prose, or has become serious cash-money business to further (or retard) a cause.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I think you are confused. The intelligence level of 1980s and early 1990s (prior to the Eternal September [wikipedia.org]) Usenet posters was very high. The intelligence of the average Internet poster is close to the population average. But those very intelligent Usenet posters didn't simply disappear--they were too smart for that. They formed new communities with restrictive memberships. I'd tell you where you are, but it is obvious that there was a reason you weren't invited to join them. Let's just say that the migratio

            • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @01:47PM (#43191679) Homepage Journal

              And the WELL stinks.

              Circular fantasies about post-economic info-tech utopia.

              You people were the usefull idiots who forged the tools for perpetual, universal surveillance and drone warfare.

              • There was a lot of that (oh, shit was there a lot of it!), but the happy benefit that trolling had was to help slap a few of them upside the head with a good hard dose of reality. ;)

          • Re:F U (Score:5, Insightful)

            by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday March 16, 2013 @02:04PM (#43191787) Journal

            USENET? Hell Slashdot used to have some truly epic fucking trolls and sadly the guys back then could tell the difference between someone arguing a position and trolling. All the posts worth reading were UID holders , ACs were for Goatse and nigger jokes. Back then a troll was one of the "bastshit brigade" like old Twitter, you took the fact he made a knockoff of your UID as a badge of honor, he had either Hairyfeets or Hairytoes for me, but anybody who had a halfway known UID got the Twitter knockoff, Macthorpe, Crosshair, all got a knockoff.

            I'll probably get hate for saying it but fuck it, its the truth, Slashdot has REALLY gone downhill since they sold it. We used to have epic threads about subjects like file systems and dark matter and you would often get experts in the field to debate with. Hell I've have argued about different OS designs with some of the guys that were building the bloody things and even when you got schooled you frankly learned something. Now its all "U no agree with me? U are teh sekret ninja shill!" and fucking ACs, it feels like Digg or Reddit anymore. No wonder more and more of the old guys have walked away, if I find me another site that actually talks geek tech and has a decent community I'll be happy to join them as its just not as good as it was, and that isn't some rose colored glasses, that is just looking at the threads. Now its all fanboi circle jerks whereas before we'd have threads over a 100 posts long arguing about the details.of the topics. Now its all just wank.

            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by inode_buddha (576844)

              The fact that some Mac users are migrating to linux is *proof* that homosexuality is a choice, and it can be cured. There just needs to be a free enough market. But the dems will never allow this, with the need to fund their total-control utopia. Microsoft, on the other hand, cannot be cured; it must be killed with fire before it lays eggs.

              • Re:F U (Score:5, Funny)

                by Penguinisto (415985) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @02:43PM (#43192051) Journal

                I score it 2 out of five, mostly because you rushed to the meat of your troll in your first sentence - it was like watching some schoolboy getting his first lay, only to ejaculate all over her panty-covered mons. A disappointment, to say the least.

                You need to lead up to the troll. You know, like foreplay. Nobody likes a trap rigged with insufficient bait. ;)

            • Re:F U (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Penguinisto (415985) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @02:34PM (#43191973) Journal

              Sadly, I have to agree with most of your post.

              There are still a few points of light here and there in the darkness, but instead of being common, it's now a somewhat rare gem. I miss the days when the big boys in IT would pop in and take a turn or four at a given subject. It allowed you to learn shit that no man page, howto, or FAQ would ever tell you. Seriously, it allowed you to see inside their decision-making and vision, which helped this sysadmin learn more about writing good code than most typical codemonkeys today could ever hope to know about the craft.

              Good luck in your search for some sort of actual geek site these days, though. The nanosecond it generates anything worth having, you can count on the corporations, ideologues, and the ignorant to come swooping in and work their respective angles, shitting all over the place in the process.

              I've no more tears to weep for humanity though; it is what it is. It's like being one of the old guys sitting around the crumbling ruins of an era gone by, reminiscing about the old days of prospect, excitement and wonder.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              Now its all "U no agree with me? U are teh sekret ninja shill!"

              If there weren't secret and not-so-secret shills, and trolls creating apparent shill accounts left and right for the purpose of trolling, then there would be less accusations of same. Slashdotters have never even learned to focus on positive moderation.

              Now its all fanboi circle jerks whereas before we'd have threads over a 100 posts long arguing about the details.of the topics.

              That's not true. We also have arguments over whether or not a given discussion is a slashvertisement.

          • Re:F U (Score:5, Informative)

            by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Saturday March 16, 2013 @02:55PM (#43192131)

            Ah, trolling.

            TFA isn't even about trolling. More like "griefing", or just insults. Trolling is so much more than that.

            Back in the days of USENET, it was (once) an art form.

            Yes! Anyone that wants to truly understand trolling culture should read Guy Macon's The Art of Trolling. [chessbanter.com]

    • Re:F U (Score:4, Interesting)

      by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @12:52PM (#43191343) Homepage Journal

      "This is stupid, and they are all idiots" is simple to understand, you just flag all what you have heard as untrustworthy, and put the people who say that stuff in a mental box. Our brain likes simple structures, and avoids complex ideas, so this wins by default.
      Some issues, even when you understand the fundamental problems, are out of the control of the individual, and thus frustrating.

      Structured discussions like liquidfeedback or moderation by users may help, but it really depends on whether you can build a community and which culture that community would like. It's not merely a technical issue (another example where our engineering-brains like to look for a simple solution, avoiding complicated social studies).

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        If I understand the paper correctly it's the other way around, impolite comments decrease the credibility of the opinion they hold. Which is problematic when a troll pretends to hold a viewpoint and then acts like a jerk in order to discredit it.
        I still don't see how this is a problem though. It may ruin a first impression, but people actually interested in a topic won't make up their minds based only on a few internet comments, but do further research. And the people who don't most likely don't really care

        • but people actually interested in a topic won't make up their minds based only on a few internet comments, but do further research. And the people who don't most likely are politicians passing laws on the subject, anyway.

          FTFY.

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        Or you can have new owners fuck the whole thing up like /. had. Lets face it, we ALL know the mod system is fucked up, been fucked up for awhile, and it encourages crap like sockpuppets and ACs because it is too damned easy to game the system but its obvious the new owners have no fucks to give so that is that. Hell the new system even ran off the batshit brigade like old Twitter, never thought I'd say it but I actually miss the Twit and his "6 degrees of MSFT". Oh there was an Earthquake? twit could bring

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Saturday March 16, 2013 @12:45PM (#43191281)

    Not sure what kinds of forums they're talking about, but I'm pretty sure there isn't any trolling on any of the forums I post on.

    • by TheP4st (1164315)
      I'm confused, your UID indicate that you have been here since the beginning of time but your comment indicate that you are new here.
    • by hedwards (940851) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @12:59PM (#43191415)

      Obviously, it's only trolling if it's not what the reporter wants you to think, you idiot.

    • by RLiegh (247921)

      Hah! And people said Apple would never release their Reality Distortion Field tech for general use!

    • by Jon Abbott (723)

      Very true. I haven't seen any "BSD is dying" posts here in a long time.

      • by Trepidity (597)

        Well, there's only so many crippling bombshells an OS can withstand before it fades from view entirely...

      • by kermidge (2221646) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @02:16PM (#43191875) Journal

        Ok, I'll bite. What's BSD?

        • by ais523 (1172701) <ais523(524\)(525)x)@bham.ac.uk> on Saturday March 16, 2013 @05:43PM (#43193089)

          It's an operating system, that descended from the original versions of UNIX (and thus is a true UNIX, rather than Linux which aims to be compatible with UNIX without actually being a UNIX), that's both free and open source; there were some licensing issues at one point but those have been cleaned up now. It's used in pretty much the same contexts as Linux is, and is pretty similar from a user's point of view, but is less popular. (The compatibility means that many programs only need a recompile to be ported from Linux to BSD or vice versa; and you can even get hybrid distributions, e.g. Debian/kFreeBSD is FreeBSD's kernel with the mostly-GNU userland that Debian uses, programs that are more frequently run on Linux. Or you can run BSD's traditional userland on Linux; many people do.)

          The main reason it isn't so widely known is that it's pretty similar to Linux in terms of what it can do and why you would use it, so without a compelling reason to use BSD in particular, you'd typically use Linux by default because it's better known.

          • by kermidge (2221646) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @11:40PM (#43194831) Journal

            Thank for the fine information - some I'd known, most, not.

            I feel like a real shit, because you typed in an excellent helpful piece in reply to an early-morning toss-off meant to be humorous - JonAbbot said he hadn't seen any "BSD is dying" posts, so I thought I'd accommodate him by trying to imply that it had already died. Sorry, man.

            And thanks CBravo for the Windows 'touché.'

            • by Sabriel (134364)

              Hey, I for one like seeing a funny one-liner followed by an informative summary. Brightens my day AND I learn something. :)

        • by CBravo (35450)
          Blue Screen of Death. It is a Windows feature, and Windows is dying.
      • That's because Netcraft didn't confirm it.

  • One bad apple... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 16, 2013 @12:46PM (#43191291)

    I don't know if anyone felt like this, but I remember in middle school being with a group of kids and as soon as someone said something nasty/ negative about an individual, everyone felt they had to agree and chime in. Whenever it was something positive, the responses were mostly neutral.

    Now as a 30-something, I sense this "negative groupthink" with the younger coworkers, but with my peers we have disagreeing opinions. I know at least when I debate I try to see it from all angles, whereas people younger (and much older) than me seem to only have one point of view, and only theirs is the correct one. Or, it's easier to follow than to create your own set of opinions and facts to support it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)

      Pretty much, most people are of the hurd mentality and if you go against the hurd, then you wind up being burnt at the stake or shunned.

      The elderly end up trapped in their own experience in many cases because they, wrongly, believe that they have seen everything and that this case is exactly like the one they've seen previously. Which might be true in many cases, but if it isn't true, their mental rigidity will prevent them from ever seeing the truth no matter how obvious it is to an outsider.

      Experience is

      • Re:One bad apple... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by russotto (537200) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @01:39PM (#43191657) Journal

        Pretty much, most people are of the hurd mentality and if you go against the hurd, then you wind up being burnt at the stake or shunned.

        Linux is still doing quite well against the Hurd. So is BSD. Heck, I think the Colecovision might still have more users.

        Experience is a good thing if what you're doing is like the things you've had experience with, it gets the job done faster, but if there's any novelty to it, you run the risk of doing it wrong.

        There's always risk of doing it wrong. But if I had a dollar for every time someone told me "This time, things will be different" and they weren't, I'd be wealthy. You know who believes that things will be different when every damn time in the past they haven't been? Charlie Brown, that's who. He never managed to kick that football.

        • by hedwards (940851)

          As opposed to the many billions of dollars that have been lost by people who allowed their experience to cloud their judgment and run their own business into the ground. It happens more often than you think, just look at Kodak for instance. Where they let their experience rail them into a spiral of disaster.

          And as for the this time it will be different, that's not what I'm talking about. If they can't give you a reason why it's going to be different, they're no different than the oldsters.

    • by xstonedogx (814876) <xstonedogx@gmail.com> on Saturday March 16, 2013 @02:54PM (#43192121)

      The most important phrase I ever learned to say is, "I don't know."

  • Does it begin with polarized news or comments that may correct/nullify the polarization of the news?

    Certainly more and more people are realizing the News is polarized already.

    • by Kozz (7764)

      Does it begin with polarized news or comments that may correct/nullify the polarization of the news?

      Certainly more and more people are realizing the News is polarized already.

      I agree with you -- people notice it. But at the same time, I think that the toxic comments work much the same way as advertising on television, billboards, and so on. Even though we are fully aware of the nature of the message, that doesn't prevent it from influencing us. For advertising, even if you scoff at a particularly lame attempt at advertising delivery, you likely still become even MORE aware of the brand itself. It still elevates it above the unfamiliar and unadvertised competitor brands. I t

  • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @12:50PM (#43191319)

    TV ads have used anchoring for decades - "You won't pay $300, or $200, or $150 for this product, but it's yours today for 3 low payments of $29.99".

    The first prices anchor your expectation, and $29 sounds like a great deal. Even those smart enough to mentally say "you mean $90" still come up with a 2-digit number instead of 3 digits, and it seems like a good deal.

    Stores do this too. A slow-selling model will suddenly jump up in price when placed next to the product's big brother, at a higher price. The goal isn't to sell the more expensive product, it is to anchor your price to the smaller version seems like a deal.

    When people have no idea what is going on, they need an anchor. This seems to be true of anything.

    Automatic Master's thesis in any subject in advertising - take something advertisers have known for decades, make your thesis about how that applies to your field, and then do a study.

    Advertisers have the financial incentive to know how people think, and the only problem is they stopped before generalizing into behavior patterns, and just made it about purchasing.

    • then again, as you pointed out, i'll take 90 over $150 any day :P it's not that it's two digits.. it's that it's much lower than 150. It's 40% cheaper. 40%!

      so while i sort of get your point, the example is pretty bad.

      • But the idea is the fare market value of the TV could easily be $80. Having heard "Not 300...150" those are your anchors/comparisons, but do they have anything to do with the true value of the item? A study shows even considering unrelated numbers (last 2 digits of your own social security #) before making an evaluation will impact what value people assign to goods: http://web.mit.edu/ariely/www/MIT/Chapters/CA.pdf [mit.edu]
    • My brain usually turns off after "You wouldn't pay..." My response is, "You're right."

    • by mounthood (993037)

      Anchoring also explains hive-mind voting: the higher score is read as a signal of the "appropriate" score.

    • by houghi (78078)

      In many places what they will do is have three items. One is extremely expensive. One is extremely cheap. Then they have one in the middle and that is the one they will have the highest margin on.

      Sure, some will buy the cheap one. Some will buy the expensive item. Most will buy the middle one.

      It is also easy for the sales person to 'down sell' an item. Makes him look honest. "You do not need this one, take the cheaper one. It is just as good." And that way he has a higher commission, because that was the on

  • by Twinbee (767046) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @12:51PM (#43191333) Homepage
    Strange how I still don't know the actual definition of 'troll' despite being on here for ages. It seems to have multiple definitions to suit whoever throws the comment out.
    • by Molochi (555357)

      Well in the olden time (BBS days) there were two main reasons something or someone was called a troll. One was a person that would jump out into the conversation like the troll in the Aesops Fable, Billy Goats Gruff, who would jump onto the bridge they were trying to cross. The other analogy came from fishing, where you took a baited hook and let it drag behind your boat until a something took the bait.

      I always favored the later.

      Of course Slashdot segregates Trolling from Flamebait. In moderation, I tend to

  • by Beetle B. (516615) <beetle_b@NOspam.email.com> on Saturday March 16, 2013 @12:53PM (#43191347)

    I've never come across a news site that allowed "open" comments not become dominated by their inaneness.

    Why do news sites allow them? I suppose there may be a connection between allowing them and traffic (I really don't know) - but I see highly serious, respectable local news outlets that already have a strong base suddenly decide "Hey, everyone's doing it, why not us?"

    In ye old days we had "Letters to the Editor". Open comments are not a viable replacement. The former were heavily moderated.

    • by jklovanc (1603149) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @01:28PM (#43191579)

      In ye old days there was a specific amount of space available for letters to the editor; usually about half a page. They had two main issues; very few people could be heard, the comments and the article were disconnected (the article and letter could be printed days apart). With web pages there is plenty of space and immediacy.

      I believe in moderating posts but it needs to be done by people with integrity. I have seen too many posts moderated troll, off topic, overrated, etc when the moderator really meant "I don't agree".

      I think comments are a counter to today's move away from reporting and toward commentary. We used to get facts. Now, more often than not, we get slanted commentary and are told how to think. Comments allow people to bring forward alternate viewpoints.

      • by Ichijo (607641) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @02:53PM (#43192117) Homepage Journal

        I've seen people banned simply because they held an unpopular viewpoint for which the moderators couldn't come up with a rational counterargument and didn't want to deal with the cognitive dissonance. Banning has become a shortcut abused by those in power to silence inconvenient truths, with no formal mechanism in place to appeal the bans.

        Worse, there's no easy way to know which message forums engage in this overhanded behavior, because said message forums typically delete any messages exposing it. This creates information asymmetry which restricts the flow of alternate viewpoints. As a result, we all lose.

        Boards like Slashdot and Reddit are better, because they (usually) don't delete posts without leaving a trace, but it still comes down to moderators downmodding simply because they don't agree. Maybe mod actions need to be individually justified, with those justifications open for debate and subject to cancellation, but that gets complicated real quick, and by the time it has gone through the process, the conversation has already moved on.

        • cbcnew.ca doesn't seem to do either banning or hiding comments they disagree with, but they engage in something just as bad: "pre-moderating". It's inexcusable how many troll comments thrown together in two seconds get through, while meaningful ones taking much longer, and even comments with simple corrections, never get posted. They even allow political trolling comments to get through on the most benign topic. I've stopped wasting my time there.

          This is different from the past where "Letters to the editor"

      • In ye old days there was a specific amount of space available for letters to the editor; usually about half a page.

        There is still a limit even today: the patience of the reader. Just because you can publish every comment on an article does not mean that you should. I rarely do more than glance at the comments on news sites because they are full of drivel. They could at least select the one or two sensible comments and have the rest accessible by a link if anyone wants to bother reading them.

    • by jfengel (409917) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @01:28PM (#43191581) Homepage Journal

      For many news sites, comments are one of their key value-adds. For news beyond the local level, they're generally not doing original reporting, but merely aggregating news from other places. Including, um, Slashdot.

      (In fact, on Slashdot I find the comments often more revealing than the articles, since they can generally de-spin the puffery that is required to turn marginal news into something that feeds the maw of a 24x7 news cycle.)

      News sites would often like to seem themselves as the town hall/water cooler/public forum of the 21st century. It attracts returning eyeballs, giving the page multiple views from the same reader who tunes back in to the ongoing conversation. I think they'd like to present themselves as having a broader perspective on the news, rather than as mere conduits for it.

      Unfortunately, that means running a community, and that turns out to be a non-trivial job. It certainly won't run itself; they need to actively curate it. (Translation: it's not the free money you were hoping for.) The social sites generally do a better job of it, since it's what they specialize in.

      There may still be a niche for them, in areas where they actually have expertise, such as local news or niche news (like Slashdot). It helps to have citizen curators doing the job for free, though the smaller the niche, the harder it is to get critical mass.

    • Comments are like peer review. I don't trust any article that does not have the ability to post comments and at least have a few showing.
      In addition to posting a different viewpoint, it allows actual experts whose main objective is not to get as many views as possible to write about a topic.

      If an article interests you, the comments are where to go to see if the idea holds water and to learn more about it.

    • Generally they allow comments and often they moderate them (by unilaterally deleting anything THEY disagree with, not just "trolls").
      Also, by TFA's logic, sites that have crowd managed comment sections should also have the trollish comments on top. Well that may be true for reddit and many others, but I don't see this happening on slashdot. In all seriousness slashdot comment system has solved this a long time ago. It's probably the best comment system out there.

      Heck I feel like it could be sarcastic, as i

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @12:55PM (#43191375)
    The study had the subjects read an article and the comments. I'm curious what effect rude comments have when noone reads the article, so we can better understand Slashdot.

    Thank you very much for your time spent reading this, ladies and gentlemen.
  • by jklovanc (1603149) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @12:58PM (#43191397)

    The polarizing effect can even be a good one. When I see someone make a stupid attach I have a tendency to research the subject and become more informed. That is a good thing. Perhaps attacks make people learn more to defend their positions.

    The changing of attitudes is more complex. Here are some possible reasons;
    If people who can not carry on a polite debate in support or opposition of a technology perhaps their position is weak and they are trying to bully their way through. I would hesitate to support the same position as a troll.
    Perhaps when people see negative speech they begin to think negatively bout everything and that manifests at negativity about the subject.
    This too may be a research issue as more information may change the position.

  • by TigerPlish (174064) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @01:04PM (#43191455)

    It's called "bully."

    Don't get what you want? Throw a tantrum or take by force.

    Few people agree with what you say? Be mean to them, belittle them, In public if possible. Bully them until a) they kick your ass or kill you, b) you *do* win them over, or 3) they stop listening to you.

    This particular phenomenon isn't quite new. TV and Religion work much the same way. One blogger or poster or anchor or pastor or priest will say one thing, then an avalanche of people incapable of original, independent thought nod in assent. In order to rile the crowd, they will attack the person and ideas of those who "oppose" them. "Gee, if senator Juan Pingalarga is here in church agreeing with the pastor's bashing of gays, it must be ok! I'll bash gays too!" Tell me this isn't how it works. Tell me this isn't how we get these sickening political comments threads on CNN, etc. Tell me that's not how we get these fantastically bellicose flame wars here about win vs. unix, apple vs. android / samsung etc.

    Tell me this isn't why America's rapidly slipping into irrelevance -- the smart and quiet ones constantly out-mouthed by the dumb and loud.

    This starts at home and school, and the only way to buck it is to teach the little ones right, not trusting their education largely to TV or the Internet.

  • by achbed (97139) <sd AT achbed DOT org> on Saturday March 16, 2013 @01:07PM (#43191483) Homepage Journal

    Why do you think politicians use nasty vile language to trash their opponents? It delivers both (a) the message that they are better, and (b) reinforces that with a visceral reaction from their audience. The problem become when they then have to sit down and work out a solution to a problem - the previous reaction of the audience makes their compromise seem unacceptable. So what we have in a two-party system is a race to abandon the middle. Anyone trying to reduce the level of nastiness is attacked by their opponent as weak and unprincipled, and therefore is voted out of office, leading to a more and more splintered society.

  • Alinsky's Rule #5 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by phrackthat (2602661)
    RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”

    There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.

    • I'm going to Godwin this thread. So I apologize in advance. I'm sorry, but intellectually Saul Alinsky is the worst of the worst. He blows Adolf Hitler out of the waters on a ranking of vile putrid evil. I'm convinced this man, Alinsky was an incarnate of Lucifer himself. A real anti-Christ. Words can not subscribe how his world-view is a destroyer of everything men have fought so hard for to maintain and perpetuate civility; however little of there is in this world. Alinsky takes hold of whats available an

  • Rude != Troll (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <almafuerte&gmail,com> on Saturday March 16, 2013 @01:33PM (#43191619)

    Big mistake. The idea that any rude comment or any comment that you disagree with is a troll. Any clear view on a subject, any unpopular opinion is a troll.

    I've been marked as a troll, for example, for my ideas regarding religion (I understand that religion is detrimental for modern humans, that teaching religion to children is a form of abuse, and therefore indoctrinating anyone under 18 should be illegal).

    Truth is, regardless of what you think about my idea (please don't turn this into a religious discussion, I only used it as an example), that doesn't mean I'm trolling, it only means I have a radically different idea, and that yours and mine are incompatible, it doesn't mean I'm intentionally trying to upset you. If you are so sensitive, the problem lies with you, not with my comment.

    Also, the idea that anything rude must be a troll. Rude comments win (if the underlying idea has any basis) because rude shows conviction, certainty. If I say "nanotechnology is a good idea, you should be more open-minded", I sound weak. If I say "Fuck this anti-science bullshit. We need to get rid of fear of technology, anyone that doesn't understand the benefits of nanotechnology after reading this article is a backwards idiot that has no place in modern society", I'm essentially saying the same fucking thing, but with different wording. This PC society we live in tells us we need to be nice to everybody. That is simply not truth, if you understand that something is simply wrong, and you are certain of your ideas, grow some fucking balls and express them in a way that is actually effective.

  • ... Which leads to topics like this where so many people post lulz-troll comments that you can't tell the difference between actual trolls and people just trying to be funny.

    Aw, screw you guys!

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @01:59PM (#43191753) Homepage

    ...always crap anyway, so why read them at all?

  • Everyone post "nasty" comments - rude and abrupt, whether you're arguing for or against the premise of the article.

    Then tomorrow when it gets posted as a dupe, everyone post constructive comments, and we'll see what happens.

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @02:17PM (#43191883)
    Not that slashdot is an island of perfection it has a pretty good BS filter, one of the best troll filters, and potentially one of the best off-topic filters. So if there is an article on black holes and someone starts ranting about 911 conspiracies they end up with a -1 pretty damn quick. If someone posts their slightly strange theory on black holes they may or may not survive but probably won't get a 5 and if someone goes half off-topic but against the grain of slashdotters and says blackholes are just a theory and the bible has a better answer they too will get badly spanked.

    Where self moderating groups like slashdot and reddit can go wrong is when you violate a cultural taboo. Saying valid good things about Microsoft or valid bad things about Linux will get you a karmic black eye and on reddit not being racist will get you in trouble in many sub sections. Yet reddit is pretty good at sorting out fact from fiction (compared to many news organizations' comments sections).

    The quality of many news organizations' comments moderation is best shown by the number of spam/completely bonkers comments that they let survive.

    On a side note I am not happy with the number of organizations using Discus (I have hosts blocked them). I had an experience with one of their people and man o man do they seem to gather data.
  • Why assume that polarization is bad? Merely because the underlying story is complex (far moreso than ever presented in any media) does not mean it deserves attention. Sure, the original authors might think so, many people do not care.

    Worse (from the zealots PoV), people have an absolute right to choose not to care. For these people, perhaps polarization is an acceptable shortcut. The do seem to choose it.

  • FUCK YOU! Your stupid fucking theories are fucking STUPID! Anybody who lets god damned TROLLS direct the traffic in their little fucking teeny-tiny brains is a fucking MORON. And YOU'RE a moron for writing this stupid, fucking, DRIVEL. ... There!

    Now, the effects described in the article will be effectively canceled out by the direction of my negative comments against the theory. People will no longer be swayed by trolls. Talk about short-cuts! You fucking idiot!

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @02:50PM (#43192093) Journal
    .. you know something that gives the power to the readers some small ability to banish the trolls, without serious intervention by the admins.. Like posters who post good quality comments get some kind of tokens that they can use to reward other good quality comments as they see fit... and the recipients of the tokens too use to reward more good quality discussions... The readers will have simple tools to filter out the comments considered low quality by others ... Thus the sterling quality of the comments will draw the best and the brightest ... That site becomes the go to site for quality discussions on some field, like, say, computers and technology...

    You think that could happen? Is there a site like that?

    • by PPH (736903)

      I was going to mod your post +Funny, but I used up all my points on the 'In Soviet Russia...' quips.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @03:01PM (#43192167) Journal
    I don't know what the title means by the word "win". What do the trolls win? Polite discussions inform the readers somewhat, and rude discussions polarize, almost equally it looks like from the cursory reading. So the trolls make as many enemies as they make friends. So what are they winning?

    In some certain circumstances enemies don't cost you anything and friends get you some small benefit

    One example would be a deep Red (or Blue) district politician who acts like trolls and makes as many enemies as friends. But his friends are in his/her district enemies are outside, so he does not care.

    Or even an obnoxious car salesman advertising in radio "Costoria Buick! Owner Ed has gone mad! He is stackin' 'em deep, selling 'em cheap"!. Yeah, that guy is irritating, but you might still remember the name of the dealership, and the irritated millions do not bother him. The few sales leads that he does get is enough for Ed Costoria.

    So I don't see the internet trolls as winners, but the sites hosting them as losers.

  • by PPH (736903) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @03:24PM (#43192283)

    There's nothing that makes me think about the plight of the LGBT community more than seeing the loonies from the Westboro Baptist Church screeching about them. Same with neo-Nazi groups, anti-immigrant activists and others.

  • Made an actual effort to let us report troll comments and fucking remove them.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley

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