Posted by Minnie-Haha on April 22, 2005, at 11:50:57
First: I’m not trying to attack any particular poster here. I assume that most posters here are nice people with lots of positive things to contribute to the group. What I’m trying to do is start a discussion on whether or not a certain kind of posting behavior can be considered uncivil, and if so, what to do about it.
Dr. Bob’s civility rules remind us (among other things) not to be sarcastic, not to jump to conclusions about others, not to post anything that could lead others to feel accused or put down, not to harass or pressure others, or use language that could offend others, and not to exaggerate or over-generalize. So my question is: Does habitually questioning whether or not others’ posts are civil break any of these guidelines? Might this possibly even be considered troll-like behavior?
On the Psycho-Babble FAQ page, under Dr. Bob’s discussion on civility, there is a link to a piece by Timothy Campbell about Internet trolls. I think Campbell’s advice to ignore a troll is often the best advice. Also, replying with a simple post titled “Troll Alert” and a message telling others to ignore trolls is also a good way to advise newbies about how to deal with trolls. However, considering what Campbell has to say (especially under “Why Does it Matter?” and “What about Free Speech?”) I think there may be instances in which it would be appropriate to block a troll.
According to Campbell, “Internet trolls are people who set out to start arguments or otherwise make people on message boards uncomfortable.” Perhaps key words here are “set out to”; a troll is only a troll if he or she *consciously* chooses to offend or discomfort. OK. But what about the person who doesn’t know what he/she is doing? – You give him or her a warning. If the behavior is repeated, the poster is blocked. (Posters are bound to make mistakes or take risks from time to time.) Of course, this is a consequence which we are all aware of when someone posts *words* that could be offensive to others. What I’m suggesting is that there might be certain behaviors, not just words, that can be viewed as uncivil. If we were all meeting in person, we might forgive these behaviors if they happened from time to time. But how would we respond to that behavior if it were repeated habitually, over and over again?
The definition of “habitually” in this case is one of those subjective things. I suppose we could come up with some guidelines on the subject, but as moderator, Dr. Bob would have the final say.
Others might say, if the habit doesn’t bother Dr. Bob, why should it bother me? If you’ve ever been scrutinized in this way, you might find it offensive or uncomfortable. (I’m sure there are those who don’t, but I did.) But there’s another reason to care: Dr. Bob can only spread himself so thin. Every hour he spends researching and responding to requests from the same people over and over again is an hour that he doesn’t have to give to the rest of the group.
I tried very hard to write this in a way that would not be offensive. (Even though “dealing with particular posters” is listed as a possible topic on the PB Admin board. It is very hard to be particular and *not* particular at the same time.) I am sincerely trying to address an issue that is stressful to me.