Life on the Web: Surviving the Drive-by Attack

BlogHer Original Post

If you've been on the web for more than a minute you've at least witnessed an attack on a blogger by a troll - usually anonymous. If you're truly lucky, it has happened to you. And if you are a bonafied interwebz superstar - someone like, oh say Dooce (Heather Armstrong) - you've got entire blogs dedicated to hating you. And if you are someone like, oh say Dooce - you brilliantly monetize the hate.

But I digress. This post is about more practical advice for what you can do if you are the victim of a drive-by attack on the internet. First, allow me to share some of my stories with you.

Unlike many other bloggers, I rarely get nasty comments or private email flames. Nope. Rather I inspire bloggers who have a bone to pick with me to write long, rambling attack posts. Helpfully, they generally include my name so that Google alerts me to their odes.

And I am flattered when I find these posts. Truly I am because to write such a post the writer must spend a great deal of passionate time thinking about me. Plus I can sometimes mine them for comedy gold. Awesome!

But after I get my post-attack laugh on I inevitably experience a mood dip. It is not all roses and zen dealing with attacks. I suppose the inevitable flaw in my response is that in making jokes I ultimately violate the cardinal rule of troll club: I talk about them, therefore I let them in my noggin, therefore I've fed them.

In addition to not feeding them, the other supremely important thing to remember is that it is about the troll's issues. Ultimately that is what keeps me sane when someone doesn't like my views and therefore feels the need to disparage my appearance or make up things from whole cloth about me or, best of all, try and slam me with a derogatory description I now totally plan to turn into a tee shirt and wear to BlogHer '10. These people who rant and rave about me don't know me and so I know they aren't really talking about me. They are talking about some fictional person and are using me as a convenient cipher upon which they project their crazy.

I am lucky, though, that my charming haters haven't turned personal or violent. I might have to reconsider if that were to happen. But as long as I continue to just attract your ordinary garden variety of trolls, I'll keep on blogging and keep on doing my best not to feed, engage or otherwise encourage those who don't have the courage of their convictions to stay and constructively engage. And if all else fails, I remember that most of the people I encounter in the blogosphere are decent, polite, often kind and many I am lucky to know and have in my life.

Have you found a strategy that works well for dealing with trolls and drive-by attackers? Has the threat or reality of attacks stopped or limited your blogging?

Related Reading:

Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend: In the thick of it: when fatphobia plays out in politics

When I was asked to appear on CNN for the first time (2007), Mike Rogers blogged about it afterwards and, one of the commenters actually said "I like Pam, I just wish we had a prittier face representing liberals. looks sell, sorry?" Another said:

"I cant believe the talking progressive heads dont go on diets and loose some weight so we can get more people to like us. PUT DOWN THE BIG MAC STEP AWAY FROM THE MAC AND CHEESE JUST SAY NO TO DEEP FRIED FOODS!!!!"

I already was tentative about doing TV, but it has had a lasting effect on my reticence and self-consciousness about doing it. I know it's irrational, but one gets tired of people investing too much of their evaluation on what I say based on what I look like.

BlogHer member Jenna Hatfield chattered: I got trolled today. My old, long-time troll, back out from under her bridge. All I could do? Was laugh. I've come a long way, baby.

Anil Dash: Remembering Brad L. Graham

Before the term "blog" was even coined, the distinguishing feature of the sites that a few of us were publishing was that these were made by real people, individuals with voices who had something to express. Yet the conventional wisdom was that the medium we were working in, the world we were living in, was somehow not real.

This manifested itself in a lot of different ways. Early reports on blogs would say "why are these people wasting their time shouting into the void? Who reads these things?" Even though I was participating in it myself, I would still be combative and antagonistic on my site at times, because I didn't always see the readers or other bloggers I interacted with as "real" people.

Nick Bilton at The New York Times Bits Blog: Can We Change the Web's Culture of Nastiness?

The other notion discussed in the review is Mr. Lanier’s belief that the “drive-by anonymity” allowed by the Web has led to a mean mob mentality — or as Mr. Tierney calls it, “vicious pack behavior on blogs, forums and social networks.”

I believe Mr. Lanier is completely right with his theory, but it’s much more than just anonymity that has fostered some of the vitriol that appears on the Web.

There’s the immediacy factor — it’s so easy to leave a comment on a blog post without taking a deep breath and collecting your thoughts.

And there’s also a much bigger force at work: People don’t realize there is a human being on the other side of online commentary. There is a digital blurring of humanity that takes place on the Web.

Laura Belgray at Talking Shrimp: Go ahead, hate my stuff (or, why writing is like a big glass of milk).

So, because they make me dry heave, does that mean truffles suck?

Yes, indeed. It means truffles are over. It means those truffle hogs in Alba should fold up their truffle tents and try something else. Like selling vacation timeshares in Virginia Beach.

Or…OR…it means that truffles are awesome, and I just don’t like them.

Just something to remember if someone doesn’t like your writing. Or anything else you do.

Naomi Dunford at Itty Biz: In Defence of The Real Social Media

They say social media for business is about making fake friends. They say it’s about tenuous connections. They say that it’s not really social, it’s not really friendship, it’s not really real.

But when I went on Twitter tonight, what I got was friends. Real friends. Friends I’d had drinks with. Friends who had let me save their business. Friends who saved MY business. People who were there to share a laugh or a smile or a joke. People who had always been there.

Today, when I needed friendly voices, friendly voices were there. And dear God, I am so grateful.

Catherine Connors at Her Bad Mother: Dealing With Trolls: A Holiday Primer

And in the space where you might otherwise have been tempted to put a rejoinder or rebuttal or argument or smackdown? Put love. Put friendship. Put community. Put laughter. Say something nice, something friendly, something clever, something ridiculous, something vapidly amusing, something about coffee or chocolate or how much you love person X or how much you admire person Y or has anybody seen that awesome thing that person Z wrote yesterday? or oh, look, MUPPETS.

Olivier Morin and Sophie Claudel at International Cognition and Culture Institute: Conversation Hackers

Trolls are shy creatures - some might say paranoid. Theirs is a barely legal hobby, and knowing it, they are careful to leave few clues as to their identity. Steve, for instance, did not disclose his real name (he never does) but neither did he allow us to use one of his usual pseudonyms (I coined a name for him). This post relies on the direct testimony of ordinary Trolls, on discussion threads and demonstrations of skill that Trolls provided us with, and on hundreds of hours of observed on-line trolling. That information was collected by Sophie Claudel. A regular on a variety of IRC newsgroups since the age of 13, she has daily interaction with Trolls, some of whom have become friends. Trolls, you see, have a life outside of trolling - a social life that looks just as rich and fulfilling as yours and mine, with conversations that are as pleasant and rewarding as anyone else's. Sophie, who does not troll herself, meets them in real life, on a regular basis, and almost every night on the Internet.

Ask Miz Ginevra at The Official Everything TypePad Blog: Dealing With Trolls

Trolls online are people who seem to wake up in the morning for the sole purpose of tearing your blog to shreds. We've got 'em. If you've got 'em, welcome! It's a sign of success - as long as there's someone there professing to hate everything you say, you know you're doing it well.

Alyssa Gregory at Sitepoint: How to Deal with Trolls on Your Blog

If you have a blog, you know the trolls I am referring to. Trolls are typically people who post rude comments with the sole intent of offending or provoking others. Their comments are usually off-topic and are meant to initiate a defensive or equally vicious response from the target.

Susan Elaine Cooper at Bit Rebels: Do Not Feed The Trolls

Generally trolls are unhappy in their own lives, and since misery loves company, they choose to prey on others who they see as happy or popular.

BlogHer CE Liz Rizzo: Trolls, Communication, and the Wild, Wild Web.

The thing about trolling, to me, is that on one hand the intent of it is to cause a stir, and upset. Ignoring someone will ward that off at the pass. But on the other hand, ignoring a troll, or someone you suspect to be a troll, simply sees them not engaged and living to troll again another day with the same talking points and no new information. And you risk pushing away someone who might actually be trying to engage.

BlogHer CE Maria Niles feeds unicorns, not trolls at PopConsumer.

BlogHer Contributing Editor PopConsumer Beyond Help


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