The moderators and I understand that people can have a bad day or make a mistake. When you put thousands of people together in an environment such as this, we understand there are going to be disagreements and we'll have our share of drama. Stuff, after all, does happen.
The moderators and I try to deal with it the best we can in the limited amount of time that we have. Bear in mind, that our moderators and editors are volunteers and they are responsible for most of the day-to-day operations of OLS.
For the most part, the problems and issues we have to deal with are minor. A quick private message and it's over with. No big deal.
By far, the biggest problems we have are trolls- people who like nothing more than to cause trouble.
What is a Troll? - http://members.aol.com/intwg/trolls.htm
An Internet "troll" is a person who delights in sowing discord on the Internet. He (and it is usually he) tries to start arguments and upset people.
Trolls see Internet communications services as convenient venues for their bizarre game. For some reason, they don't "get" that they are hurting real people. To them, other Internet users are not quite human but are a kind of digital abstraction. As a result, they feel no sorrow whatsoever for the pain they inflict. Indeed, the greater the suffering they cause, the greater their 'achievement' (as they see it). At the moment, the relative anonymity of the net allows trolls to flourish.
Trolls are utterly impervious to criticism (constructive or otherwise). You cannot negotiate with them; you cannot cause them to feel shame or compassion; you cannot reason with them. They cannot be made to feel remorse. For some reason, trolls do not feel they are bound by the rules of courtesy or social responsibility.
Perhaps this sounds inconceivable. You may think, "Surely there is something I can write that will change them." But a true troll can not be changed by mere words.
Why Does it Matter?
Some people — particularly those who have been online for years — are not upset by trolls and consider them an inevitable hazard of using the net. As the saying goes, "You can't have a picnic without ants."
It would be nice if everybody was so easy-going, but the sad fact is that trolls do discourage people. Established posters may leave a message board because of the arguments that trolls ignite, and lurkers (people who read but do not post) may decide that they do not want to expose themselves to abuse and thus never get involved.
Another problem is that the negative emotions stirred up by trolls leak over into other discussions. Normally affable people can become bitter after reading an angry interchange between a troll and his victims, and this can poison previously friendly interactions between long-time users.
Finally, trolls create a paranoid environment, such that a casual criticism by a new arrival can elicit a ferocious and inappropriate backlash.
The Internet is a wonderful resource which is breaking down barriers and stripping away prejudice. Trolls threaten our continued enjoyment of this beautiful forum for ideas.
Dealing with trolls is time-consuming, frustrating, energy-draining and usually a complete waste of time. If allowed to fester, trolls and the problems they create can spread like a disease, poisoning the atmosphere. Feelings get hurt, enthusiasm wanes, participation lessens, time is wasted, frustration mounts.
Therefore, effective immediately, we are going to institute a much tougher zero-tolerance policy in our dealings with trolls. If the moderators or myself determine someone is trolling, we will send them a private message or an email with a link to this post as their one warning. Any further trolling from that point on will result in an immediate 7-day banishment from OLS. A second trolling offense after the initial banishment will result in a 30-day or permanent banishment. Third offenses will result in permanent banishment from OLS.
Honest mistakes will be forgiven. Purposeful, mean-spirited behavior that's continuously disruptive to our community will not be tolerated.
I would also like to ask every one of our members to help us all more effectively deal with the trolls by simply ignoring them. When you respond to a troll's efforts to cause problems you're not only giving him/her/them the attention they want, you're also adding fuel to the fire they are hoping to create. When others join in, the problem only grows- often resulting in hurt feelings and a pulled thread.
None of us like to have to remove a whole thread, we understand that our members don't like it either, but often times we simply don't have the time it would take to individually remove each problematic post. And even if we did have the time, what's left of the thread often doesn't make much sense because of the posts that were removed.
Instead of responding, we ask that you report trolls to us by clicking on the link located in the upper-right corner of every post. The moderators and myself will then determine if the offending post should be removed (one post is a lot easier to remove from a thread than several) and whether a warning should be sent to the person doing the trolling.
If people would stop responding to trolls, the number of threads that end up being removed will be greatly reduced, our jobs as moderators will be much, much easier, and the overall atmosphere around here will be much more pleasant which will encourage more smart, funny and interesting people to participate. It's a win-win for all of us, but we need your help. Please don't respond, report.
No more trolls.