Of Comment Trolls and Flash Mobs

comment trolls and flash mobs

At some stage in your blogging journey, you’re going to write something that, for whatever reason, brings down the equivalent of Darth Vader, Sauron, Freddy Kreuger and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse onto you all at once.

That’s okay – part of the beauty of blogging is that you’re opening up your opinion to the world, and as we all know, no-one ever agrees on everything someone else says.

Healthy debate is good – it helps grow both you as a blogger and your reader, as they get to interact with you more as well as your other readers. This helps foster your blog’s community.

But sometimes, you’re going to get idiots that have nothing better to do than try promote a hidden agenda, or simply want to be the loudest voice in the room. No matter what you say or do, they’re still going to be angry little children.

Otherwise known as comment trolls, they can be a pain in the butt. Especially when they hunt in packs, and become comment troll flash mobs.

The good news is, you have complete control over how you deal with them and how much say they actually get.

Comment Trolls on Your Blog

If the trolls are attacking you on your blog, obviously as the blog author you have complete control over what is said, how it’s said, and who it’s said to. So how do you deal with comment trolls on your blog?

  • Comment Policy. One of the ways you can preempt trolls is by having a clear comment policy on what will and will not be tolerated. While you’ll still get trolls, you’re showing your trusted readers that you have their back – again creating a better community. If you’re unsure of what would be a good comment policy for your blog, The Blog Herald has a great overview.
  • Ask Why. A lot of trolls, funnily enough, aren’t as bad as they make themselves out to be. Sometimes, your most vocal critics can be mistaken for trolls, when in fact they might have a valid point. Ask them why they feel you erred, and see if there’s common ground you can agree on.
  • Polite Warning. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, some trolls will just continue to come back at either you or your readers. This isn’t something you should let continue for a protracted length of time. Advise them politely that you respect opinion and disagreement, but not rudeness or attacks. If they continue, you’ll have to moderate, delete or ban them.
  • The Three Strike Rule. I’ve used a rule on every blog I’ve ever had, or helped a client with – the Three Strike Rule. If you’ve been advised not to be rude and ignored it; had your comment moderated and ignored it; and then had your comment deleted and reposted, you’re banned from the blog. You can either use the troll’s IP address to filter them straight to spam, or completely ban them from your blog. If you’re unsure how to do this, speak to your web host about IP Blocking

Comment Trolls on Other Blogs

As you can see from the above suggestions, you have a ton of control over comment trolls on your own blog. But what happens when someone’s attacking you on someone else’s blog, and the blog author isn’t protecting you?

standing alone

Be Polite and Ask Why. The beauty of blog comments is they encourage interaction, whether it’s a personal, professional, business or hobby blog. So ask your attacker why they feel so strongly. Look at your comment and ask about a certain point in it. You’ll either spark up a reasoned conversation or be ignored/attacked again. Which leads to the next point. 

Reach Out to the Blog Author. Any good blogger should protect their commenters and make sure everyone knows personal attacks will not be tolerated. Unfortunately not every blogger lives up to this. If you feel you’re coming under attack unfairly, ask the blogger why they’re allowing it. If they don’t protect you, find another blog to read. 

Ignorance is Bliss. You can have the most valid responses. You can agree with other points of view by trolls. You can accept your point-of-view isn’t cast in stone. But still the troll persists. Time to let them waste their own energy and just ignore them, and instead continue to converse with the folks that bring value and common sense to blog comments.

When and If You Should Engage Flash Mobs

Like I say, sometimes you’ll see the trolls hunt in packs. This can be a community from another website coming together to attack you on your post, or blog authors and their friends beating you down in the comments on their blog.

The best thing to do here is just sit it out, ride the storm, and jump in where necessary (to correct erroneous facts, or protect your other readers).

I had an example earlier this year where a Tumblr community came out in force and attacked me on this blog. They got really personal at times (although some were pretty funny too).

Instead of jumping in and fanning the flames more by replying, I simply replied to a couple to correct a statement and offer some further information. The furore died down pretty quickly – sometimes people just want to let off steam. If you watch a pan of boiling water when it’s taken off the stove, you know the steam eventually evaporates.

Flash mobs are actually a bit easier to deal with, as they generally compliment each others comments, as opposed to hitting out at anyone else but you.

Of course, if it does become too personal or they’re attacking your other readers, you can refer back to how to deal with trolls on your blog from earlier in this post.

Business blogs are a bit different, because obviously there’s a lot more legal stuff at stake as well as how your business is viewed when replying. A strong comment policy is needed with business blogs, and you’ll want to consult with your legal team about how to proceed.

I’ll be looking at business blogs and interaction in a future post.

In the meantime, how about you? Have you had to deal with comment trolls, and if so, how do you deal with them?

image: Yoshi 2000
image: neonihil

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