Want to enjoy your Everything Experience even more than ever? Try this handy dandy little trick:

Ignore the troll.


See, what a lot of people don't understand is that the troll thrives on making you angry. He lives for getting you to lose control and flame him. When you flame him, it gives him an opportunity to flame you right back. He enjoys turning Everything into a boiling pit of anger and hate. Every time you legitimize the troll by responding to his writeups, you give the troll a little more control over Everything -- a bit more opportunity to make Everything revolve around him, to remake Everything in his own image.

But when you ignore the troll, he loses power. When you refuse to read his writeup, it's like he doesn't exist for you, and you can spend your time noding quality writeups, instead of noding a brawl. When you refuse to vote the troll up or down, you can contribute your votes to a writeup that really deserves your feedback. When you refuse to respond to the troll's inflammatory writeups, the message is clear: "We don't care about you."

Node for the Ages. Do not Node for the Troll.


ADDENDUM: July 17, 2012

Twelve years is more than enough time for my opinion on this subject to evolve. I no longer believe you should ignore trolls. I think you need to meet them head-on and do everything you can to smack them down.

Our thinking on this topic used to be that trolls who were ignored would get bored because no one was reacting to them and then they would go away. Once upon a time, it might even have been true -- the Internet used to be a lot different place, and trolls used to be much simpler creatures.

Times have changed, and I now think "Don't Feed the Trolls" is an ineffective strategy for troll wrangling. My preferred strategy now is to feed them -- to feed them through a wood chipper, if necessary -- and to do everything possible to challenge them and hopefully run them off.

What's wrong with the old strategy? Primarily, it assumes that troll motives have remained the same. But today's trolls often don't care about getting attention or derailing discussion boards. Many of them are now into targeting individuals with abuse in an attempt to drive them off the Internet, prevent them from voicing their opinions, and force them out of public life. You don't believe me? No, it's okay, it's a hard thing to believe.

But all the way back in 2007, there was Kathy Sierra, a technology blogger who was reasonlessly attacked by trolls, who sent her death threats and rape threats. Kate Harding and Joan Walsh have written about how much unbelievable shit gets thrown at women who write online. More recently, Anita Sarkeesian started a Kickstarter campaign to fund research and videos on tropes about women in video games and was rewarded with a vast torrent of sexist and racist messages.

That's just a few incidents focusing on women. There are others focused on gays, racial minorities, religious minorities.

What good does it do to ignore stuff like that? Does it make the trolls go away? Maybe, maybe not. But ignoring it also sends a very clear message to the victims of these incidents: "We don't care."

But we do care, don't we? We want free, open, honest discussion, both here on E2 and most other sites we read and comment on. Because most of us -- and most people online -- are nice people, and we think it's awful that someone would be treated that way.

Ignoring the trolls means you're often sending a message that sexist and racist threats and harrassment are acceptable. They're not. And the best way to combat that kind of attitude is to feed the trolls. Feed them good and hard. Feed them until they run away and never come back. Feed them so their victims will know they have friends online who will watch out for them.

You often get the same kind of arguments out in the real world. Ignore people like Rush Limbaugh or Andy Breitbart or Nancy Grace or Fred Phelps, they say, and they'll go away. But it doesn't work. They don't go away. Sometimes they get stronger. In fact, they thrive when good people pretend they can banish them by pretending they don't hear them. Then they get to spread their messages without good people standing up to tell their listeners that they're wrong.

You don't get rid of a cockroach infestation by pretending it doesn't exist. You have to turn on the kitchen light, see where they are, and start stomping.

More good commentary on this subject from Jay Smooth -- and Katie J.M. Baker brings evidence that standing up to trolls can have positive effects.