[linux-elitists] Request for Comments: How to Deal with Internet Trolls - the Cognitive Therapy approach

Jason White jason at jasonjgw.net
Sun Mar 6 00:22:36 PST 2011

Shlomi Fish  <shlomif at iglu.org.il> wrote:

>Well, one possible solution to this is to make sure you're not a bigot of 
>anything. In the chapter about anger in "Feeling Good" Dr. Burns mentions the 
>fact that what we may consider as bad (e.g: someone blasting music), may be 
>fine for other people (who like to hear that music). So it is a good idea to 
>avoid thinking things like "Perl is the worst language possible." or "Python 
>is the perfect language." or "The GPL is a criminal [= "unethical"] licence." 
>or "BSD-style licences help proprietary software vendors." or whatever, 
>because things are more complicated than that, and there are always some 
>matters of taste, and flexibility. 

This is true in many cases: one ought to avoid over-generalized claims, and
such statements as "x is the worst operating system ever written" clearly fall
into that category, unless you have a lot of comparative evidence to support

One type of trolling behaviour that I've sometimes encountered (occasionally
in response to posts of mine) occurs when, in the midst of a hitherto rational
discussion involving disagreement, someone intervenes by attacking one or more
of the other participants, explicitly or by implication. As David Sternlight
observed in a Usenet posting, there's "nothing like a good ad hominem when
logic fails".

There are various ways of responding to such conduct, for example by invoking
the acceptable usage policies of the discussion group, by ignoring the
offending remarks, or by politely requesting that the participant concentrate
on the facts and the logic of the discussion. These are only a handful of the
possibilities, of course.

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