SayUncle posts at his website that he believes KnoxViews is already being infested by trolls. There has also been some discussion in comments about it. (Read more after the jump...)
I've noticed a few comments by three different anonymous visitors so far that probably qualify as trolls. I wouldn't necessarily characterize that as an "infestation", but it's not good. In fact, it's unacceptable.
One tried to engage SayUncle (who unfortunately took the bait) with what seemed to be a substantive argument, but crossed the line into rude and abusive personal attacks. A few other troll comments have been off-topic nonsense or immature, simple-minded one-liners offering no substantive argument and clearly intended only to inflame.
Beyond that, I've been pretty impressed with the quality of blog posts, the topics (even when I don't agree), and the discussion in comments so far. Views from across the political spectrum are welcome, but everyone should expect opposing viewpoint from the other side and should be able to tolerate a little heated debate as long as both sides keep their facts straight and keep it civil.
It's when opposing viewpoint crosses the line into disingenuous rhetoric or immature, rude behavior that things deteriorate. When that happens, the best thing to do is to disengage and simply ignore it. Or don't even start with them in the first place if it's clear that you simply disagree and nobody's going to change their mind. Instead, create a blog post with your opposing viewpoint and let the "marketplace of ideas" sort it out, similar to a point-counterpoint op-ed you might see in the newspaper. (Immature, off-topic, inflammatory, nonsensical one-liners that are obviously trolls or flame bait should simply be ignored.)
That said, exaggeration and hyperbole are not necessarily disingenuous, and forceful arguments and heated debate are not necessarily rude or abusive. In my experience, it is helpful to have a high tolerance for B.S. and to not take things too personally.
Rude or abusive comments are usually pretty easy to spot by their own nature. So that leaves the question, what is a "troll"? To me, it's sort of like pornography -- you know it when you see it. Using that analogy, the problem is that what one person might view as 'X' rated another might view as 'R' or 'PG-13' and vice versa.
So what to do about it. First of all, let me restate the relevant parts from the rules of this website that everyone agrees to when they register or by their use of this site:
Be civil, be ethical, and don't be an idiot. We're trying to be serious here, although we have a sense of humor and certainly aren't opposed to a having a little fun. Don’t troll or post flame bait. Don't post anything threatening, libelous, abusive, obscene or pornographic. Don't post any racist, homophobic, xenophobic, or any other type of hate speech. Don't post private information about anyone else without their permission. Oh, and please keep the profanity to a minimum, especially on the front page (think PG-13). Violators of these rules will have the offending material permanently removed, their user ID, e-mail address, and/or IP address permanently banned, and will be reported to their internet service provider and/or proper authorities.
That seems pretty simple to me. Anyone who can't abide by that, or worse, has a problem understanding it, should leave now and not come back. I would like this to be a self-policing forum. That doesn't mean that those of one political persuasion should try to run off anyone from the other side who doesn't agree with them. What it means first and foremost is, "DON'T FEED THE TROLLS!" Secondly, it means having respect for one another and our opinions. Third, it probably means having a thick skin from time to time as there will be heated debate on controversial issues. Mature, civilized adults should be able to do that without name-calling and rude behavior.
Anyway, I'm asking everyone's help in keeping this a place for civil, constructive dialog, even when we don't agree. As it is a fairly open space and anyone can post here, that might difficult, but again, as mature adults it shouldn't be impossible. I'd also like to ask everyone, "DON'T FEED THE TROLLS!". I could turn off anonymous commenting, but I'd hate for it to come to that. On the other hand, if you want to be taken seriously and make a substantive contribution, you really should register.
Finally, I have setup a "Troll Watch" topic under the "Sections" category. I suggest that when someone spots a troll or other abusive comment, they make a blog post about it in the "Troll Watch" section so the community can decide if a) it's a troll, and b) what should be done about it. Perhaps humiliation is all it will take to keep the discussion on track. This should not be abused, however, to deride others with whom you simply disagree. By my definition, that would be "trolling."
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