Of Comment Trolls and Flash Mobs

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
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Danny Brown
Co-author Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing. #1 marketing blog in world as per HubSpot. Husband. Father. Optimist. Pragmatist. Never says no to a good single malt. You can find me on Twitter - Google+ - LinkedIn.
91 comments
Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Hi Paige, my apologies, just seeing this comment now - how did you get on with your own troll? Hopefully resolved now?

Paige Worthy
Paige Worthy

Hi Danny! Doing a little research today for a class I'm teaching tomorrow on blogging for business. Having had a (very dedicated) troll of my own for quite some time, I wanted to be sure I addressed this topic from a more well-rounded position than just my own. Thanks for the ideas about staying positive and engaging "trolls" when necessary…but also learning to ignore or block if it really gets out of hand.

Danny
Danny

Haha, it's funny you mention your blog design, Monica (and popping over there after this reply to check it out).

I wrote a post a while back about changing my design, and what people would like to see. One reply, by a lady called Lisa Kalandjian, turned into Lisa redesigning (see current design) and becoming part of Bonsai Interactive.

Funny how things work out. :)

Sonia
Sonia

I can't say it's happened to me yet, but I have run across some on other communities where I have seen that kind of behaviour. I think they are more concerned with getting their agenda across and that's fine, but I noticed something:

Cowards are quick to say things behind a computer, (I guess it's more safe for them) but when it comes to face to face conversations, they usually back down. Why give trolls the time of day? I guess I am in your face kind of person and believe in addressing the situation personally. That usually silents a room, but I always do it with tact.

Like you said, not everyone will like you what you say or even like you, but they will respect you if you know how to defuse the situation.

Sonia
Sonia

I can't say it's happened to me yet, but I have run across some on other communities where I have seen that kind of behaviour. I think they are more concerned with getting their agenda across and that's fine, but I noticed something:

Cowards are quick to say things behind a computer, (I guess it's more safe for them) but when it comes to face to face conversations, they usually back down. Why give trolls the time of day? I guess I am in your face kind of person and believe in addressing the situation personally. That usually silents a room, but I always do it with tact.

Like you said, not everyone will like you what you say or even like you, but they will respect you if you know how to defuse the situation.

Sonia
Sonia

I can't say it's happened to me yet, but I have run across some on other communities where I have seen that kind of behaviour. I think they are more concerned with getting their agenda across and that's fine, but I noticed something: Cowards are quick to say things behind a computer, (I guess it's more safe for them) but when it comes to face to face conversations, they usually back down. Why give trolls the time of day? I guess I am in your face kind of person and believe in addressing the situation personally. That usually silents a room, but I always do it with tact. Like you said, not everyone will like you what you say or even like you, but they will respect you if you know how to defuse the situation.

Monica Ricci
Monica Ricci

I will always delete the spam of course. You know, those folks who show up with a name like "ViagaraForLess" and a link to some website and all they do is say something lame and generic like, "I am agree! This blog are many helpful to me!" Seriously? UGH. Just go away.

As for rude commenters, I don't get TOO many (thankfully) but I will typically respond politely and ask for more information, often resigning to the fact that we are free to disagree. If someone says something over-the-top rude about me or one of my other commenters, I'll delete the post and write a comment explaining that dialogue is welcome provided it's respectful.

One guy criticized my blog design (pretty rudely actually) and it inspired me to be objective and I ended up agreeing with him and changing my design, which improved it greatly. So I was thankful for that one! I also think you need to develop a thick skin if you're putting yourself out in the Twitterverse or blogosphere. You can't please everyone all the time and it's easy for many people to be a tough guy from behind the keyboard and say things they would *never* dream of saying to you in person. Generally, I try to take the high road whenever possible.

Monica Ricci
Monica Ricci

I will always delete the spam of course. You know, those folks who show up with a name like "ViagaraForLess" and a link to some website and all they do is say something lame and generic like, "I am agree! This blog are many helpful to me!" Seriously? UGH. Just go away. As for rude commenters, I don't get TOO many (thankfully) but I will typically respond politely and ask for more information, often resigning to the fact that we are free to disagree. If someone says something over-the-top rude about me or one of my other commenters, I'll delete the post and write a comment explaining that dialogue is welcome provided it's respectful. One guy criticized my blog design (pretty rudely actually) and it inspired me to be objective and I ended up agreeing with him and changing my design, which improved it greatly. So I was thankful for that one! I also think you need to develop a thick skin if you're putting yourself out in the Twitterverse or blogosphere. You can't please everyone all the time and it's easy for many people to be a tough guy from behind the keyboard and say things they would *never* dream of saying to you in person. Generally, I try to take the high road whenever possible.

Alt2Att
Alt2Att

I'm just starting a blog. Thanks for the tips. I can see how they will be valuable.

Alt2Att
Alt2Att

I'm just starting a blog. Thanks for the tips. I can see how they will be valuable.

Alt2Att
Alt2Att

I'm just starting a blog. Thanks for the tips. I can see how they will be valuable.

Marjorie Clayman @margieclayman
Marjorie Clayman @margieclayman

I still haven't had all that many trolls, but I totally agree with the comment that it's really important to make sure the trolls are actually trolls. I have found that sometimes people just naturally comment angrily :)

Also, asking someone to clarify often acts as troll repellent. If you show you are willing to engage but on a higher level of maturity, interest decreases pretty quickly.

Good post!

Marjorie Clayman @margieclayman
Marjorie Clayman @margieclayman

I still haven't had all that many trolls, but I totally agree with the comment that it's really important to make sure the trolls are actually trolls. I have found that sometimes people just naturally comment angrily :) Also, asking someone to clarify often acts as troll repellent. If you show you are willing to engage but on a higher level of maturity, interest decreases pretty quickly. Good post!

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

As I was reading this, I'm thinking, "Yeah, but Danny...what happens when they attack you on someone else's blog?" And then you read my mind!

I think the best policy is to be classy, not defensive, and open your mind to the criticism. If the person (or people) keep coming at you, don't engage.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

As I was reading this, I'm thinking, "Yeah, but Danny...what happens when they attack you on someone else's blog?" And then you read my mind! I think the best policy is to be classy, not defensive, and open your mind to the criticism. If the person (or people) keep coming at you, don't engage.

Sanjeev Sharma@Random Raves & Rants of Sanjeev
Sanjeev Sharma@Random Raves & Rants of Sanjeev

This is not only an interesting post but unfortunately a real life, or should I say a virtual life, truth as well.

If you have an opinion, there will be people who will be in direct opposition to it as well. And that can be for two reasons - one, they genuinely feel opposite of what you do or two, they always take the opposite view point to any given idea.

Nothing wrong with either. I welcome both (though I enjoy the latter more!). The only condition is that the discussion must be civil and be based on objective analysis. The moment the discussion departs from these two ingredients, it becomes personal, rude and pointless.

I have had the "pleasure" of comment trolls on one of my blogs. They were at times extremely rude and worse illogical (at least in my opinion). My first instinct was to delete the comments, but I decided against that. I replied politely but firmly. Some retreated, some did not. But I continued to have their comments published on the blog and kept a good "fight" without being as rude as they were. Eventually some of my readers took up the cudgels on my behalf and that finally shut the trolls up.

Another thing that I have noticed when someone writes a hate comment is that more often than not, they have not read the entire post - just seen some lines and "understood" the complete article and pulled the comment trigger. They are driven by emotions and asking why they are upset (as suggested by you) can calm them down.

Sanjeev Sharma@Random Raves & Rants of Sanjeev
Sanjeev Sharma@Random Raves & Rants of Sanjeev

This is not only an interesting post but unfortunately a real life, or should I say a virtual life, truth as well.

If you have an opinion, there will be people who will be in direct opposition to it as well. And that can be for two reasons - one, they genuinely feel opposite of what you do or two, they always take the opposite view point to any given idea.

Nothing wrong with either. I welcome both (though I enjoy the latter more!). The only condition is that the discussion must be civil and be based on objective analysis. The moment the discussion departs from these two ingredients, it becomes personal, rude and pointless.

I have had the "pleasure" of comment trolls on one of my blogs. They were at times extremely rude and worse illogical (at least in my opinion). My first instinct was to delete the comments, but I decided against that. I replied politely but firmly. Some retreated, some did not. But I continued to have their comments published on the blog and kept a good "fight" without being as rude as they were. Eventually some of my readers took up the cudgels on my behalf and that finally shut the trolls up.

Another thing that I have noticed when someone writes a hate comment is that more often than not, they have not read the entire post - just seen some lines and "understood" the complete article and pulled the comment trigger. They are driven by emotions and asking why they are upset (as suggested by you) can calm them down.

Sanjeev Sharma@Random Raves & Rants of Sanjeev
Sanjeev Sharma@Random Raves & Rants of Sanjeev

This is not only an interesting post but unfortunately a real life, or should I say a virtual life, truth as well. If you have an opinion, there will be people who will be in direct opposition to it as well. And that can be for two reasons - one, they genuinely feel opposite of what you do or two, they always take the opposite view point to any given idea. Nothing wrong with either. I welcome both (though I enjoy the latter more!). The only condition is that the discussion must be civil and be based on objective analysis. The moment the discussion departs from these two ingredients, it becomes personal, rude and pointless. I have had the "pleasure" of comment trolls on one of my blogs. They were at times extremely rude and worse illogical (at least in my opinion). My first instinct was to delete the comments, but I decided against that. I replied politely but firmly. Some retreated, some did not. But I continued to have their comments published on the blog and kept a good "fight" without being as rude as they were. Eventually some of my readers took up the cudgels on my behalf and that finally shut the trolls up. Another thing that I have noticed when someone writes a hate comment is that more often than not, they have not read the entire post - just seen some lines and "understood" the complete article and pulled the comment trigger. They are driven by emotions and asking why they are upset (as suggested by you) can calm them down.

Jk Allen
Jk Allen

Hi Danny - Wow, I surely haven't received any trolls or flash mobs, yet in the blogosphere. I guess when I do it'll be a sign [somewhat] of accomplishment ...meaning people care enough to spend time "hating" what I'm up to.

I've dealt with this in real life...so I understand the annoyance and displeasure that comes with it.

This is my first time commenting here. Saw your name mentioned on NittyGriddy and also on John's (Expat) blog in the comments.

GREAT stuff you have working here you have working here. Glad to have found it! And I love: "the human side of media and the social side of marketing."

Jk Allen
Jk Allen

Hi Danny - Wow, I surely haven't received any trolls or flash mobs, yet in the blogosphere. I guess when I do it'll be a sign [somewhat] of accomplishment ...meaning people care enough to spend time "hating" what I'm up to.

I've dealt with this in real life...so I understand the annoyance and displeasure that comes with it.

This is my first time commenting here. Saw your name mentioned on NittyGriddy and also on John's (Expat) blog in the comments.

GREAT stuff you have working here you have working here. Glad to have found it! And I love: "the human side of media and the social side of marketing."

Jk Allen
Jk Allen

Hi Danny - Wow, I surely haven't received any trolls or flash mobs, yet in the blogosphere. I guess when I do it'll be a sign [somewhat] of accomplishment ...meaning people care enough to spend time "hating" what I'm up to. I've dealt with this in real life...so I understand the annoyance and displeasure that comes with it. This is my first time commenting here. Saw your name mentioned on NittyGriddy and also on John's (Expat) blog in the comments. GREAT stuff you have working here you have working here. Glad to have found it! And I love: "the human side of media and the social side of marketing."

Billy Gee
Billy Gee

Haha..I love it.."Trolls". The only hidden agenda these idiots have is to get a rise...Dont dignify with more than 1 or 2 responses! And I agree, ask why, and nicely. A lot of these people will quit knowing that you're not pissed!

Billy Gee
Billy Gee

Haha..I love it.."Trolls". The only hidden agenda these idiots have is to get a rise...Dont dignify with more than 1 or 2 responses! And I agree, ask why, and nicely. A lot of these people will quit knowing that you're not pissed!

Michelle
Michelle

Thanks for this Danny. I'm just going to say, I've observed how you respond to comments on your blog - positive and negative..... and clueless ones too - and you do it with grace and class at all times. Well done. :)

Michelle
Michelle

Thanks for this Danny. I'm just going to say, I've observed how you respond to comments on your blog - positive and negative..... and clueless ones too - and you do it with grace and class at all times. Well done. :)

Keith Davis
Keith Davis

Thanks for the warning and advice Danny.
Never thought about it but forewarned is forearmed.

BTW - love the title "Of Comment Trolls and Flash Mobs" just had to read this one.

Keith Davis
Keith Davis

Thanks for the warning and advice Danny. Never thought about it but forewarned is forearmed. BTW - love the title "Of Comment Trolls and Flash Mobs" just had to read this one.

Matthew Crossett
Matthew Crossett

I really hope that soon enough my blog will be high profile enough to have one or, dare I say it, a whole group of people so engrossed in my ideas that they feel strongly enough to 'attack' my blog. When it happens I will be sure to employ these tacits, Thanks

Matthew Crossett
Matthew Crossett

I really hope that soon enough my blog will be high profile enough to have one or, dare I say it, a whole group of people so engrossed in my ideas that they feel strongly enough to 'attack' my blog. When it happens I will be sure to employ these tacits, Thanks

Howie at Sky Pulse Media
Howie at Sky Pulse Media

I like this Topic Danny! I think the way technology has evolved it means comments and mobs leave lasting imprints online. In the past someone said F-U and walked away. They might say 'I hate that guy' to a friend and no one outside proximity hears.

Now people far and wide can visually see this stuff. And people can invade if they want.

Howie at Sky Pulse Media
Howie at Sky Pulse Media

I like this Topic Danny! I think the way technology has evolved it means comments and mobs leave lasting imprints online. In the past someone said F-U and walked away. They might say 'I hate that guy' to a friend and no one outside proximity hears. Now people far and wide can visually see this stuff. And people can invade if they want.

Danny
Danny

Hi Sonia,

So true, miss - the Internet has made a lot of cowards brave. ;-)

Danny
Danny

Hi Sonia, So true, miss - the Internet has made a lot of cowards brave. ;-)

Danny
Danny

Haha, it's funny you mention your blog design, Monica (and popping over there after this reply to check it out).

I wrote a post a while back about changing my design, and what people would like to see. One reply, by a lady called Lisa Kalandjian, turned into Lisa redesigning (see current design) and becoming part of Bonsai Interactive.

Funny how things work out. :)

Danny
Danny

Haha, it's funny you mention your blog design, Monica (and popping over there after this reply to check it out). I wrote a post a while back about changing my design, and what people would like to see. One reply, by a lady called Lisa Kalandjian, turned into Lisa redesigning (see current design) and becoming part of Bonsai Interactive. Funny how things work out. :)

Danny
Danny

Agreed. People that are loud for loud's sake hate it when they don't get a rise. Besides, there's always email and closed communities to vent off with... ;-)

Danny
Danny

Agreed. People that are loud for loud's sake hate it when they don't get a rise. Besides, there's always email and closed communities to vent off with... ;-)

Danny
Danny

Hey there Sanjeev,

The "not read entire post" comment is so true, mate, especially when you separate posts into sub-headers and bullets. Time is everyone's luxury, so skimming is the alternative.

And often, once the misunderstanding is cleared up, everyone can have a laugh at the confusion because of speed-reading. :)

Danny
Danny

Hey there Sanjeev, The "not read entire post" comment is so true, mate, especially when you separate posts into sub-headers and bullets. Time is everyone's luxury, so skimming is the alternative. And often, once the misunderstanding is cleared up, everyone can have a laugh at the confusion because of speed-reading. :)

Danny
Danny

Hey there JK,

That's always the best approach - if we can understand the annoyance, we can move forward. It might be that we've inadvertently insulted someone - culture, beliefs, family - and the criticism is warranted. Understanding is half of the solution.

And great to have you here, mate - hopefully we'll see more of your thoughts in the comments, always great to have more ideas.

Cheers, sir! :)

Danny
Danny

Hey there JK,

That's always the best approach - if we can understand the annoyance, we can move forward. It might be that we've inadvertently insulted someone - culture, beliefs, family - and the criticism is warranted. Understanding is half of the solution.

And great to have you here, mate - hopefully we'll see more of your thoughts in the comments, always great to have more ideas.

Cheers, sir! :)

Danny
Danny

Hey there JK, That's always the best approach - if we can understand the annoyance, we can move forward. It might be that we've inadvertently insulted someone - culture, beliefs, family - and the criticism is warranted. Understanding is half of the solution. And great to have you here, mate - hopefully we'll see more of your thoughts in the comments, always great to have more ideas. Cheers, sir! :)

Danny
Danny

Couldn't agree more, mate. Nothing is as loud or as powerful as silence when someone's waiting on an explosion. ;-)

Danny
Danny

Couldn't agree more, mate. Nothing is as loud or as powerful as silence when someone's waiting on an explosion. ;-)

Danny
Danny

Hey there Michelle,

Thank you, way kind :)

The way I look at it is that everyone has a voice and an opinion, and deserve to be heard. And I sure as heck don't have all the answers, so I'm not going to argue with someone who has a better one. ;-)

Danny
Danny

Hey there Michelle, Thank you, way kind :) The way I look at it is that everyone has a voice and an opinion, and deserve to be heard. And I sure as heck don't have all the answers, so I'm not going to argue with someone who has a better one. ;-)

Danny
Danny

Cheers, Keith - does that mean I need to up the quality if post titles? ;-)

Danny
Danny

Cheers, Keith - does that mean I need to up the quality if post titles? ;-)

Danny
Danny

You know, I have far more respect for people who leave a contrarian comment publicly than those that are anonymous. Have the balls to stand up or don't stand up at all. :)

Danny
Danny

You know, I have far more respect for people who leave a contrarian comment publicly than those that are anonymous. Have the balls to stand up or don't stand up at all. :)

Howie at Sky Pulse Media
Howie at Sky Pulse Media

I agree Danny! I grew up in NYC/Long Island. Where if people didn't like you they told you. I finished School in North Carolina where everyone is the nicest people ever to your face. Then behind closed doors they hate you. I saw more closet racism than I cared to deal with so after college I left. Los Angeles is a mix. It is such a melting pot you get forced to deal with everyone all the time which helps things.

Howie at Sky Pulse Media
Howie at Sky Pulse Media

I agree Danny! I grew up in NYC/Long Island. Where if people didn't like you they told you. I finished School in North Carolina where everyone is the nicest people ever to your face. Then behind closed doors they hate you. I saw more closet racism than I cared to deal with so after college I left. Los Angeles is a mix. It is such a melting pot you get forced to deal with everyone all the time which helps things.

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  1. [...] Of Comment Trolls and Flash Mobs originally appeared on Danny Brown – The Human Side of Media and the Social Side of Marketing under a Creative Commons license.   If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it! [...]

  2. [...] And that’s when my mouth dropped and I cussed a little (not at Danny) by the mere sight of the familiar title of his latest post,  “Of Comment Trolls and Flash Mobs”. [...]

  3. [...] generic compliment spam just looking for some SEO love. • Delete off topic nonsense, trolls and flash mobs, spammy linkbacks for penis enhancements or cheap weight loss drugs. • Moderate or delete [...]

  4. [...] of Darth Vader, Sauron, Freddy Kreuger and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” He has an excellent post on how to deal with comment trolls if they aim their acid attention at [...]

  5. [...] Brown wrote a great piece on this topic a few months back called, Of Comment Trolls and Flash Mobs. You definitely want to check it out as he has some great insight for you and he goes a step [...]