Dealing with Anti-Linux Trolls

by Walter V. Koenning for the Linux Community, OP/ED

It's my desire to help the Linux community deal with a growing issue of trolls packing new Linux user forums with bad advice and sometimes down right lies. In the past few years this issue has gone from being a one-off to such a common occurrence today that it's getting out of hand. For many good user articles, there's some troll salivating at the chance to speak negatively about the article, Linux, compatibility issues, the author, the author's mamma, and so on.

This happens every day now on many Linux sites. In a recent response to an article published on a Linux site, a troll declared the article useless and pointless. Now mind you, the article was some user's personal experiences helping his friend move to Linux.

How can such an article be useless and pointless -- it's a personal reflection and experience. More importantly, the troll referred to the author as a: "fanatic linux religious zealot freak."

Oh, yes of course, if we convey our personal experiences helping a friend switch to Linux, we are somehow nut cases. But if we stay with Windows we are sane.

"if we help a friend switch to Linux, we are somehow nut cases"

The troll went on to ridicule how migrating a new user to Linux will force the user to lose access to essential files and software. The troll then pointed to the hot button names like Photoshop. We all know that you have a choice of good graphical editors. The other hot words are things like recompile and untar. This even though today every major Linux flavor works perfectly well with package managers to install new software with a few mouse clicks.

The troll continued by ranking on the source, the author, etc. And after all this, the comment ended with one of those nonsensical "but I think Linux is a good OS" conclusive remark. As if some new Linux user would read that last line and go, "this guy's respectful and dignified, even after spending thirty lines ranking on Linux in the comments section of a Linux website." Funny how the trolls consider new Linux users ignorant -- boy are they wrong.

Best of all, I enjoy clicking on the "other posts" button to see what else this particular troll has written regarding articles. What a shock (tongue-planted-in-cheek) to find out that the troll has posted over 20 responses with not one single positive remark about a Linux article. And an even greater shock (not), almost every reply posted by this troll says the same thing. In fact sometimes with even the same words... kind of a cut-and-paste "because I'm too lazy to think of new BS" trolling technique. My favorite anti-linux troll cut-and-paste replies from this week: "religious linux zealot", "with Windows you just...", "in the real world."

"kind of a cut-and-paste because I'm too lazy to think of new BS technique"

Okay, so I said to the editor of another popular Linux user site, we can address this troll issue once and for all. It's the Internet we're using to publish! This is the world of fast information, and fast action. A story appears in Australia and we can publish a response before most people in America are sipping their morning coffee. We work late nights, we watch reactions to our articles, so we can have a ball with this.

The idea you ask? If a troll comments on some article then I go back, do some research, revise my article and add clarifying statements. Sometimes I add new insights, or links to verify a point the troll attempted to show is wrong. In fact, one editor I spoke with decided to begin using troll responses as a basis for new content articles to help clear up overt myths and confusion.

In other words, the troll now becomes my friendly neighborhood editor. My personal critic to help shape the article.

This helps me to 1. put an end to some BS and lies and 2. to clarify issues that may very well be of confusion in the minds of some readers.

The result is that today I can update and improve my articles live as people provide feedback. Kind of a community based HOWTO, except this is real time, and hits all the facets and necessary points one single person could never have thought of -- even with the help of great site editors.

Best of all, when I fail to include a clarifying statement in an article or to prove a point regarding Linux, the trolls find them for me and report them! If I catch the troll comment fast enough, the next 5,000 readers of my article end up gaining the benefit of the troll's feedback with improved information. It's not only a great way to improve articles, having a competitive and rather intensive critic, it also does wonders for escorting some of the trolls out of our community.

What's that you say, I left what out of this article? Great let me fix the point.

Walter V. Koenning is a technology and trends writer and contributes occasionaly to the Opinions section.

This brief opinion piece should not be construed as factual information, and only contains the opinions and personal experiences of the author at the time of publication. It does not necessarily convey the views of Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. Microsoft, Microsoft Windows and WindowsXP are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation both in the United States and Internationally. MS and XP are included and refer to Microsoft Corporation and Windows XP. All other trademarks or registered trademarks in this opinion piece belong to their respective owners.