The name for this behavior has multiple connotations. The definition taken from the Wikipedia is:
Wikipedia wrote:“In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.” (Link)
There are also the trolls of Old Norse Mythology. Over time it has gained more of a negative connotation being considered violent and malignant. On forums many cross associate the meanings. Either way calling someone a troll can often be considered an insult.
The complexity for moderators is in understanding the writer’s motivation. The a writer’s motivation is usually conjecture so it is a judgment call. Unless the writer tells us we cannot know. We have to surmise it. As individuals we can decide it is obvious, but we also have to understand our biases, prejudices and recognize whether we are transferring our behavior to them. Many times what is trolling to one person is obvious reality to another.
For many in the Uru community asking, “How do we get way from Plasma?” is a troll’s question. But, that is their personal issue. Plasma is what was used to build Uru and we often discuss it in the forums, so it’s not off topic or extraneous. If it is a new thread, it’s not derailing a discussion. What is the primary intent of the question? There is the prima facie meaning of words as written. There are also reasons we may infer. But, using anything beyond the words written says more about us than the writer.
The ongoing battle over Mac vs Windows vs Linux is a question many people legitimately ask when considering the purchase of a new computer. One asking that question is usually unaware of the long history of argument about which is best. Whether or not they are a troll depends on the motivation for asking. Unless they state their motivation, we have to assign them one…
There are times when a moderator is pretty sure a member is baiting someone, trolling. While there is usually room for doubt, too much consideration can paralyze moderators. Also, some members may have history outside the current discussions’ forum that a moderator or another member can’t know about. So, some trolling will be entirely missed.
Members with history can bait and antagonize specific people with well crafted subtleties. I guess one could call it an insider’s insult sort of on the order of an insider’s joke.
Many respond to what they consider trolling with the behavior referred to as DNFTT or Do Not Feed The Troll. In other words don’t give them ammunition (words) to use. If they are posting for emotional effect, the idea is to remove their incentive for posting. One reading needs to consider when a DNFTT call is real or a way to silence someone with an opposing opinion.
Many people learn how to game the system to get their way, think politics. Politicians do whatever they feel they must to win their position. Truth and enlightenment are not their usual goals. Having things their way often is. Free speech is not to be tolerated, if it deprives them of what they want.
Rather than reacting to posts it is often better to consider what other meanings the writer may have had in mind. A question that inflames you does not mean it was intended to. When in doubt ask. Even when there is a history between you and another poster it is safer to assume you don’t know the writers motivation. That doesn’t mean you ignore your suspicions. A reasoned response is usually better than an emotional one.
I like the wiki’s definition of trolling as above. Using the definition as written leaves out the problem of people inferring things not implied in the words. Nor does it point out the possibilities for gaming the rule to use it as a weapon to silence opposition in a debate. Nor does it reveal the problems moderators can have with enforcing the rule. Nor does it include reference to it often being an insult.