Don’t fear the troll

Chris Shiflett's recent call to arms, Ideas of March made me consider some of the reasons why I don't blog more than I do. If you know me I write and share a lot of ideas online. I don't seem to be able to I publish as myself here on my own website.

I fired up my note taking tool today to look for an article to publish as part of Ideas of March. I found 13 unfinished posts. Thirteen. Why hadn’t I published them? Had I got board of the ideas? Did I not enjoy writing? Was it a huge case of procrastination? No, no and no.

This got me thinking why then am I unable to actual publish anything?. I blog a fair amount over at cxpartners as do some of the other guys there. I enjoy blogging. I really do. As do a lot of those guys. In talking to those who don’t blog as much I realised they share the same worry I do.

Billy Goats Gruff and the Troll under the bridge

It turns out what I’m worried about are the trolls. The urban dictionary defines a troll as:

One who posts a deliberately provocative message with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument

I’m afraid of someone wading in and criticising what I’ve written. This is of course their right. If I publish and put it out there I should have the courage to deal with the internet critic.

I’ve had my fair share of critics online. Over the last couple of years I’ve been likened to Shane McGowen, bought down a peg or two by an old time usability guy and generally been told I really don’t know what I’m talking about. All this criticism really doesn’t make me want to blog, it makes me want to hide under a rock somewhere.

Blogging is hard, criticising is easy.

It’s easy to criticise online, it really is. It takes no time, less than 30 seconds to post a comment. It takes me hours to write a blog post. Hours where I’m trying to second guess every single criticism. My academic training doesn’t help. I can’t just make a statement without backing it up with any evidence. I’ve been beaten with the academic stick too many times online. In short, I get so worried about the structure of my argument; I freeze. I can’t publish.

Just be nice

As part of Ideas of March I’d like to suggest we be nice to everyone who has the courage to blog. I don’t mean we should do the YouTube style comments where there are 20 people just saying the word “awesome.” What I’m saying is let’s be encouraging and say what we like about the post. Which of the points made us think. And if that troll is lurking under a nearby bridge maybe he’ll think twice before taking us all on.

6 Responses to “Don’t fear the troll”

  1. Rick Hurst

    Don’t be afraid Joe – keep blogging 🙂

    On the brighter side, at least criticism in these subject areas mostly comes from intelligent people interested in debate. You only have to look at some of the comments found on sites such as youtube, non-technical forums and the daily mail website to see how juvenile, immature and sometimes downright vicious commenting in other areas of the web can get.

    And once again i’m sorry about *that* reply to your CSS post on underscore all those years ago – I was a mere twenty-something with a couple of years web etiquette training under my belt back then, I didn’t know any better 😉

  2. Chris Shiflett

    I completely understand, and share, your fear of trolls.

    I recently decided that anonymous comments are, more often than not, the problem. So, I no longer allow anonymous comments and require people to authenticate with Twitter before commenting.

    Over fifty comments later, I feel pretty good about the decision. It might be worth considering. 🙂

  3. LornaJane

    There are two different things here. There are the trolls, whom we’ll just ignore as that’s always the best course of action. Then there are the people who will come here and comment on your post and tell you that you are wrong … and that’s horrifying, because you know your stuff and you’ve done your research.

    Or to look at it another way, people who will come and tell you how to be better, bring you new knowledge, and give advice specific to your exact situation. Which is not to say that blogging in an ignorant fashion is a good thing, but that actually, the people around us can be our best teachers, and that’s awesome.

  4. joe

    @Rick and @LornaJane I think you’re right but it’s that feeling in the pit of the stomach that produces. The thought of that feeling scares me more than the reality which is as you say often enlightening.

    @Chris I wish there were more technical ways of dealing with the troll. Removing anonymity helps I just wish there was a way to stop the trolls that made them count to 10 and then say what they wanted to say.

  5. Ram

    Agreed. Here is what I learned. The world is not perfect. No matter how thoughtful your posts/actions are, there is always gonna be someone who wants to pick up a fight. Who cares if people criticize you. If the criticisms make sense to you, learn something from it; if it doesn’t, trash it and move one.

  6. joe

    @Ram You are right. It’s just that sinking feeling when the troll attacks. No matter that I know they are a troll, it’s still not a nice feeling.

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