back to article Researchers: Trolls have dark tetrad of personality defects

Are you a fan of "everyday sadism"? Then you might just be a troll, according to the boffins responsible for a study which looked into the habits of these comment thread Caligulas. In a study called "Trolls Just Want To Have Fun", eggheads from the University of Manitoba asked 1,200 online trolls what they like doing best. …

  1. Hasham

    What about physical defects?

    Trolls be fat. Likely disabled. Sometimes not-White.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about physical defects?

      gr8 b8 m8, i'd r8 it a 0.8 mean personality score (standardised)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about physical defects?

      If you would have avoided adding the race-baiting "not white" into your reply, it probably would have a record number of up-votes.

      1. Semtex451

        Re: What about physical defects?

        If I mention the word "Eadon" here does that make me a troll?

        I seem to be limited to 5 up votes anyway

        1. oolor
          FAIL

          Re: He who is not named...

          He doesn't have the capacity to understand his actions in a group setting. His actions here don't exactly match up to the bog-standard troll. His Asperger's is a much better window into the manifestation of his posting behavior.

          Most of his trolling is much easier to explain in the context of a person lacking social awareness trying to participate in the commentard style prevalent here getting into an argument that to him seems somewhat legitimate and not having the emotional intelligence to realize the escalation of his own actions beyond the acceptable. Most of us have done this before (and likely will again), and we don't have missing pieces of mental software critical to such faculties.

          I too was annoyed and toyed with him - can only imagine the frustration of mods - but for all the nonsense, every once in a while he would knock out some brilliant little nuanced point that most would never attribute to him had he posted anon.

          Maybe its too bad that all of the rest of us have no way to get through to people like him and find a way to bring him back from his little world. I seriously doubt that he was being either Machiavellian or sadistic:

          https://www.facebook.com/james.eadon

          I for one will wager that he would be more interesting to argue with in person over a game of chess than a vast majority of commentards or writers here. And he would probably win most of the time too (Vegas has oolor at even money against the best high school competitor from any random county in North America).

          I think that should clear up your ignorance (non-pejorative, non-judgmental use for stylistic shock and metaphor purposes) on the matter and enlighten the fact that neither Eadon nor you happen to be the trolls the article is talking about.

          >>>Yes, it is in jest; for some reason it seems more appropriate than the troll icon>>>

          1. Peter Brooks 1
            Boffin

            Trolls as socially inept

            "

            Most of his trolling is much easier to explain in the context of a person lacking social awareness trying to participate in the commentard style prevalent here getting into an argument that to him seems somewhat legitimate and not having the emotional intelligence to realize the escalation of his own actions beyond the acceptable. Most of us have done this before (and likely will again), and we don't have missing pieces of mental software critical to such faculties.

            "

            I think you might have a point here. There's no doubt that some of the unpleasantness is, as the original article suggests, a result of bullying by those with the dark tetrad, it's quite likely that some more benign types are caught up in the net.

            Calling such people 'autistic' or 'Aspergers' doesn't really help. These are extreme levels on the overall autism scale. http://www.mhs.com/product.aspx?gr=edu&id=overview&prod=asrs

            It's quite normal for people who are reasonably high on the scale, but a long way from the levels that would be classified as being Asperger's syndrome, to have difficulty communicating socially. It's quite common with technical types, mathematicians and scientists, for example.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What about physical defects?

        The ones I've noticed in the UK press have all been white, I think. Perhaps they're white supremacists embittered by having crap lives despite being "members of the master race".

    3. raving angry loony

      Re: What about physical defects?

      The self-admitted troll I rented a room to, who spent hours counting score on how many people he'd gotten angry, was a scrawny little shit who was bullied a lot. This was his way of "getting back" without getting physically abused. The fact that many of the people he was targeting where the bullied rather than the bullies escaped him completely.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, basically

    Probably better off commenting on websites from Mummy's basement than being out there and running an IS unit or similar?

    1. MisterHappy

      Re: So, basically

      Shhh.... It's not mummy's basement, it's my Fortress of Power!

      1. i like crisps

        Re: So, basically

        Don't you mean, 'COMMAND CENTRE!!!!!'

  3. Chemist

    "than being out there and running an IS unit or similar?"

    Or more likely, in the case of one of 'our' more prolific trolls, pretending to.

    1. dogged

      who does that?

      I mean, seriously, there's OS-advocacy trolls that we can all deal with but that's a bit out there, isn't it?

      1. Chemist

        "who does that?"

        Well I can't tell you as they always post AC. But on many occasions they've claimed to be an IT director, or responsible for 25000 desktops or some such guff. The language is a dead giveaway, the phrases/claims almost always identical and repeated ad nauseam. I think Trevor probably knows who I mean.

        1. dogged

          Ah. I think we have a communication error here.

          I suspect the OP referred to IS in the context of "Islamic State" given the references to psychopaths and sadists. Not an IT department with a confusing name.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @dogged

            Correct on all counts. My spelling might occasionally be iffy, but not to that degree. It's hard to remember what acronym is preferred for the current lot messing up the ME, and I went with the shortest. ISIS and ISIL have alternative meanings.

          2. Chemist

            "Not an IT department with a confusing name."

            Correct, mea culpa - I read IS as IT !

            Still stand by the post on that basis though

        2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          @Chemist pokerface.jpg

  4. Alex McDonald 1
    Boffin

    Greater Internet F*ckwad Theory

    It took them 10 years to work this out? Here's the blackboard version from 2004 http://i3.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/325/699/4fc.jpg

  5. g e

    But how do the canvassers know

    That they weren't themselves being trolled in the responses? Especially as they possibly looked for some fairly prolific ones and asked them to participate!

    1. dogged

      Re: But how do the canvassers know

      Can you imagine the responses you'd get if you posted their questionnaire on /b/?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: But how do the canvassers know

        mah_nigga_denzel.jpg

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But how do the canvassers know, RE: dogged

        Yes, I can. And the results of the poll would be as valid as the TIME man-of-the-year poll that they manipulated.

  6. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    It must be true!

    It has a colored chart, after all.

    That being said, I'm not sure whether this comment comes from the Machiavellian or the sadistic side of my personality.

  7. The Vociferous Time Waster

    Trolling for suckers

    I would expect El-Reg to know the history of the word Troll; next you will be telling us that hackers were originally people who broke in to phone systems.

    Troll comes from a fishing method where bait is dragged across the bottom of the ocean to draw out the bottom feeders. It entered IT vocab because people were "trolling for suckers" who were dumb enough to take the bait. The initial comments do not have to be dark or offensive, just the sort of thing that gets people posting a reply. Mentioning that evolution is just a theory or purposely misquoting Dumbledore out of Lord of the Rings is classic trolling because although not offensive the deliberate errors will often elicit a response.

    It amuses me that all this hatred of trolls is coming at a time when most mainstream media is deliberately controversial in order to 'spark debate' and Simon Cowell is the biggest troll of them all for programs like xfactor which choose the talentless over the talented in order to spark lucrative voting outrage.

    Twitter 'trolls' like Old Holborn are just unpleasant people who should be ignored on Twitter as they are in real life.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trolling for suckers

      I suspect that the reason so much modern trolling is so offensive is that in the early days of the Intertubes it was mainly graduate-level users and trolling could be quite subtle - the joke was to see how many responses you could get from people who thought irony was Fe + y.

      Now because there is so much noise in the channels it takes a lot to get heard and so trolls get louder and more offensive in an effort to get an audience. Katie Hopkins, for example.

      But this causes other people with the kind of mental health issues referenced in the article to think that this is now acceptable behaviour. Right up till they get doorstepped by an investigative journalist or the police, and discover that their tiny world of aggression is not as mainstream as they thought.

    2. ChrisM

      Re: Trolling for suckers

      Nice old school troll there, made me reflexively twitch towards the keyboard.

      It's an overused word that has lost its original meaning and now is used for disagreement, people with an agenda (whilst also being an asshat) like Holborn all the way to those who send rape threats.

      1. The Vociferous Time Waster

        Re: Trolling for suckers

        I couldn't *not* slip in _something_.

        1. Dr Dan Holdsworth

          Re: Trolling for suckers

          That reminds me of a not-very-subtle but still quite funny troll I once saw on the Usenet group rec.pyrotecnics. To understand this, you must realise that pyrotecnicians make pretty lights by burning chemicals, and think that just making something go bang is prostituting their art.

          Thus a fellow who styled himself "Stumpy", asking if someone would be good enough to send him a bomb recipe in Braille, and preferably a not-very-dangerous one that wouldn't go off prematurely like his last effort had, caused ructions. It would appear that Americans are also a little more literal-minded than are Brits, hence there was a distinct Atlantic split to the responses to this chap. Truly a noble trolling effort, done by catering to the prejudices of the group and not insulting anyone along the way; that's how you troll correctly.

          Usenet used to be quite good for that sort of thing. It occasionally descended into farce, too, when a group's resident flamer messed up his comment threading and gave a hearty roasting to a previous poster which turned out to be himself, then got all embarrassed when said mistake was pointed out.

          1. Roo
            Windows

            Re: Trolling for suckers

            My personal favourite was posted to alt.flame, it went something like this:

            "Hi, my name is Mel, can I be your friend ?"

            It generated a *lot* of traffic. :)

    3. NumptyScrub

      Re: Trolling for suckers

      quote: "The initial comments do not have to be dark or offensive, just the sort of thing that gets people posting a reply. Mentioning that evolution is just a theory or purposely misquoting Dumbledore out of Lord of the Rings is classic trolling because although not offensive the deliberate errors will often elicit a response."

      Lol u stoopid evrybody knows the wizzard in LoTR is called Gadaffi

      did I do that right?

    4. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Trolling for suckers

      Why it almost makes me nostalgic for the old days of people telling US posters that they were late for WWII, only to be answered that "if it wasn't for us you'd be speaking German now".

      An argument I haven't seen for years and years. And was obvious bollocks anyway, because even invasion, occupation and SS torture wouldn't get the British to be any good at foreign languages. Not when we can shout, "Oi Fritz! Zwei beers please!"

      As I recall from the dim-and-distant past when I read Lord of the Rings Dumbledore was asked by git-wizard David Blaine to chop down the Faraway Tree because it was singing too loudly and interrupting his evil HR manager, who was trying to organise 30% redundancies in his shockingly over-manned (over-orced?) army...

      1. Psyx

        Re: Trolling for suckers

        "And was obvious bollocks anyway, because..."

        ...It'd actually be Russian...

      2. ashdav
        Thumb Up

        Re: Trolling for suckers

        After only 25 posts I ain't Spartacus wins the Godwin prize.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Trolling for suckers

      for example: ... misquoting Dumbledore out of Lord of the Rings is classic trolling ...

      +5 internets

      [edit]

      damn, late... i gotta get up early in the morning to keep up.

    6. veti Silver badge

      Re: Trolling for suckers

      Surely you realised that that para in TFA was trolling you?

      Maybe you do, and you in turn are trolling me.

      But as you say yourself, "most mainstream media" now sees trolling as not only valid and useful, but pretty much required tactics. And El Reg is a part of that.

    7. Terrance

      Re: Trolling for suckers

      Brill! I got my first samizdat book on phone hacking in 1973 (?).

    8. this

      Re: Trolling for suckers

      that's trawl not troll.

      1. Maty
        FAIL

        Re: Trolling for suckers

        'that's trawl not troll.'

        Good try.

        1. L05ER

          Re: Trolling for suckers

          indeed. since both are correct.

  8. MadMike

    Trolls here:

    I come to think of Matt Bryant when I hear troll. He is quite aggressive and clearly needs to work on his social skills. I am convinced he displays the same aggressive behaviour at work.

  9. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    I don't know about Machiavellianism. I also question narcissism. Most trolls don't seem particularly Machiavellian. I'd even go so far as to say there's a strong contingent of highly collectivist trolls out there. As for narcissism...seems to me a lot of the trolly folks are not so much "obsessed with self" as "possessed of a desperately bad self image".

    Maybe they are talking about the creme-de-la-creme of trolls. Seems to me that most of those I've run across over the years wouldn't really fit at least two out of the five categories all that well...while others would fit all five to a tee.

    Maybe there is a category of sub troll? Goblins, perhaps?

    1. Psyx

      " I also question narcissism."

      I don't. It's an attention-seeking vanity.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      I guess we then have to argue what you mean by troll.

      There's the kind of people who are actively trying to get down-votes and negative responses as some sort of weird validation of their existence. I suppose you could argue that's low self-esteem, but I think in a lot of cases it is because they feel that they've successfully pushed people's buttons and got their sadistic pleasure out of pissing them off. It's not a notion I can really understand. I also get the imporession it makes some of them feel that they're showing their superior intelect, and the sheeple's failure to agree with them is yet more proof of their stupidity.

      That was certainly my feeling from my days of being a forum Mod. Much more interactive than here, we had to justify our ban to the luser in question, and enter into some sort of correspondence with them, to make the buggers feel better. Or to try and reform their behaviour or something.

      I'm glad to say the word sheeple wasn't in common currency back when I was modding. Otherwise I think I'd have banned everyone who used it.

      As for Machiavellian, very few of the trolls I've encountered have struck me as being bright enough for that.

      Also we need to factor in alcohol. Anyone who's run a forum knows that things get more 'interesting' and feisty once the pubs have shut on a Friday/Saturday night. Well I suppose it's better than getting into fights in carparks...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: alcohol

        Oh. If you have any pictures of me, can you send me copies?

      2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        "There's the kind of people who are actively trying to get down-votes and negative responses as some sort of weird validation of their existence. I suppose you could argue that's low self-esteem, but I think in a lot of cases it is because they feel that they've successfully pushed people's buttons and got their sadistic pleasure out of pissing them off. It's not a notion I can really understand. I also get the imporession it makes some of them feel that they're showing their superior intelect, and the sheeple's failure to agree with them is yet more proof of their stupidity."

        I don't know. I've been trying to get to 2500 global downvotes on El Reg for like 8 months. It's harder than you'd think. Currently, it's a race to see what milestone is fit first: 15K upvotes, or 2.5K downvotes. In total, your posts have been upvoted 14547 times and downvoted 2430 times.

        But for me, "trolling" has little to do with sadism. Curiosity, yes. Understanding people. Seeing what makes them tick. Finding that sensitive nerve that says "investigate here".

        There are trolls that troll in order to hurt. And there are trolls that troll because they're bored. There are even trolls that troll as a defense mechanism because their sense of self-esteem is so low that they need to lash out preemptively. I think I've been in one of those positions in at least one thread in my life, but I can't say that any of them really sum up my motivations, and I've been described by more than one person as "a professional troll".

        Quite frankly, it's a label I'm okay with. Mostly because I view trolling as "shit disturbing". Motivations differ, but the results are always "saying the things you're not supposed to say" usually after "asking questions you're not supposed to ask".

        But I think that the questions you're not supposed to ask produce the best answers. They are the questions that need to be asked. Thus, in truth, I think every good investigative journalist is - at heart - something of a troll. Not because we enjoy the pain or angst of others, but because we do throw shit against the wall to get a reaction...and the reactions we get give us clues on where to dig deeper.

        Thus, I think you're very right: definitions and nomenclature matter. Like "hacker", the term "troll" has become diluted. Who is one? What are the qualifications? And what then do we call people who engage in troll-like behaviors, but without the motivations described in the research in the article?

        1. dogged

          > I don't know. I've been trying to get to 2500 global downvotes on El Reg for like 8 months.

          Claim to own a Windows Phone. Job done.

        2. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Here...I'll help.

          I've been trying to get to 2500 global downvotes on El Reg for like 8 months. It's harder than you'd think. Currently, it's a race to see what milestone is fit first: 15K upvotes, or 2.5K downvotes. In total, your posts have been upvoted 14547 times and downvoted 2430 times.

          I'm not from the government but I will try to help. Even though I normally agree with you and do in this case, from here on out for the rest of the month, I'll give you a downvote. A couple more of us public-spirited and helpful commentards will get you that coveted 2,500.

        3. imanidiot Silver badge
          Trollface

          Well have a downvote then.

        4. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          I don't know. I've been trying to get to 2500 global downvotes on El Reg for like 8 months. It's harder than you'd think. Currently, it's a race to see what milestone is fit first: 15K upvotes, or 2.5K downvotes.

          Trevor,

          I'm impressed you're so popular on here. An up-down ratio of 6:1 isn't bad at all, for someone who occasionally states heavily unpopular opinions. As well as admitting to having a good old troll sometimes... I must confess I'm tempted to downvote you a few times, just to help you reach your milestone.

          I think you'll struggle to maintain the hate though. This site is getting friendlier. A couple of years ago I had a discussion about up/down votes and was impressed that the saintly TeeCee was loved by 9 times as many commentards as hated him. While my ratio was a less loveable 6:1, and almost immediately headed down to 5:1.

          And yet a quick check now has me at 9,800:1,193 - a surprisingly cuddly 8:1. I don't think I post much differently. Although my somewhat anti-Google and pro-WinPho stances are probably less unfashionable than they were a couple of years ago. But I've replaced that unpopularity by suggesting that perhaps not all bankers should be hung, drawn and quartered on Dominic Connor articles.

          Perhaps I am a troll after all? I am a troll, fol-de-rol... To me, a troll is someone who deliberately sets out to annoy people, for no apparent reason. And that's how I've always seen it, and I try not to feed them.

          They are quite hard to tell apart from the loudmouths with massively strong opinions, but low on debating skills. I usually have plenty of patience to discuss with these people. Do they really believe the positions they take, or are just being annoying? I'm not sure they always know themselves. Or it differs, but they've got so used to being isolated due to their lack of communication skills, that they get used to it.

          I wouldn't regard myself as a troll. I often disagree with the 'mood of the thread' if such a thing can be divined. But I only do that if I actually do disagree, try to put and argument and stay polite. I'm very rarely worse than mildly sarcastic - even if provoked. So I'd call myself a debater.

          I guess it always comes down to definitions. It's the hacker/cracker thing all over again. Some people seem to think there's a sort of noble art of trolling. A game, where getting responses is winning, but the posts aren't offensive in themselves. That all seems a bit pointless to me. And verging on acting like an arse. Doesn't seem much different to posting something offensive to get a reaction really. The same ends, just not making quite so many rude noises.

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            What bothers me is the concept that we should be bound by - let alone strive for - popularity. The truth exists regardless of our preference for - or even acceptance of - it. Reality flat out doesn't give a fuck what we do, what we like or what we desire.

            I personally believe in a quest for truth. What is "popular" and what makes other people happy is just...not relevant. Not to me, anyways. A lot of people view that as being a troll.

            I refuse to speak - or even entertain - the "comforting lie". In any religion, that makes me a heathen. On the internet, it seems that for many the term of general disparagement used for this concept is "troll".

            That's why the question about nomenclature.

            On a side note: I do find it interesting that the statistics about likes/hates caught your eye. I don't think I've ever done the math about what my "ratio" is, let alone how it changes over time. It's interesting to me that you have, and that you've had discussions about it here before.

            Personally, I'm down with being unpopular, or with having whatever ratio of votes flows my way. What bothers me isn't what other people think of me.

            Brand tribalists and Anti-brand tribalists are what get my Irish up. The idea that a person associates their self worth with what other people think - or don't - of some third party company. To the point that they'll lie to defend (or attack) said company.

            For reasons I haven't been able to articulate, that bothers me. More than it should. Truth matters. Objectivity. Not faith, not religion, and not a marketing message.

            What's the difference between having unquestioning faith in a faceless deity who lives in the sky and unquestioning faith in a faceless corporation that sells you a cloud? Ah well, I guess I'm just a cynical old git from the era when trust was earned and technologists actually did proof of concept testing instead of believing any crap marketing shoveled their way...

      3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Mushroom

        I'm glad to say the word sheeple wasn't in common currency back when I was modding. Otherwise I think I'd have banned everyone who used it.

        Typical modhouse behaviour. Banhammer for telling the truth meanwhile lures to CP sites and carder forums, random Fox News shit or outright Nazi and/or Israeli bullcrap gets the A-OK for being "politicial talk" (Honest-to-$DEITY Nazis have to be morse subtle thought and must not cite Goering or Hitler outright, so they are at a little disadvantage here)

      4. Psyx
        Thumb Up

        "but I think in a lot of cases it is because they feel that they've successfully pushed people's buttons and got their sadistic pleasure out of pissing them off."

        Precisely: Malignant narcissism.

    3. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Maybe there is a category of sub troll? Goblins, perhaps?

      Politicians. Seems to be a good fit.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Dragnets?

      Refer to title,

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    yep. trolling is hanging out a line and seeing who bites.

    being a twat online isn't trolling, it's just being a twat.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Better find a new name for them then

      If trolls don't want to be classified entirely as those pasty dudes who make death threats to women, they're going to need a new and catchy name for people who do that stuff.

      It's all well and good saying "those people aren't trolls" but a negative isn't as memorable as a positive- "those people are $NEWTERM" will give everyone else a more convenient label for them.

      Also getting a new word for people who enjoy being malevolant dicks online into global use would be a supreme achievement of social engineering in the face of a bunch of people who heartily deserve it, possibly counting as a mighty piece of trolling in its own right.

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Never give these people uniforms.

    You already encounter them EVERY FUCKING DAY in the labyrinthine depths of STATE BUREAUCRACY.

    And this is why I am for full liberalization of firearms. Full liberalization.

  12. Triggerfish

    Reminded me of a comment on another website.

    As below.

    Most carefully weighted piece of trolling I ever saw?

    On a messageboard of roughly evenly balanced political affiliations.

    'I see Margaret Thatcher is in hospital. Let's all keep our fingers crossed.'

  13. D@v3

    everyday sadism?

    I would be a fan, but the mrs only allows it at the weekend

  14. Lord Lien

    Trolls....

    .... some can be very amusing. Like the person who got Donald Trump re-tweet the picture of the Wests & he threatened to sue.

    Anyone who plays any MMO will know that trolling goes on constantly, its relentless on some games. Trade in WoW (on US servers) for example, just mention the current president & his healthcare plan, then watch the comments go!

    In my old age you just shake your head & remember what on-line games were like back in the 90's. Oh the same! People trolling, just not as much of it due to the number of players online back then?

    1. Psyx
      Happy

      Re: Trolls....

      On-line game trolling used to be less verbal and more about KOR POR, KOR POR, KOR POR!

    2. Roo
      Windows

      Re: Trolls....

      "In my old age you just shake your head & remember what on-line games were like back in the 90's. Oh the same! People trolling, just not as much of it due to the number of players online back then?"

      Trolling has always been an integral part of games (and sport) both online and offline, Aussie cricketers like to call it sledging.

      1. Psyx

        Re: Trolls....

        "Aussie cricketers like to call it sledging."

        All cricketers call it that.

        Sledging is good-natured and funny. Trolling might have been one day, but tends to be pure spite.

        Sledging also gets stopped and is widely condemned when it crosses a line into plain old direct insults.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Trolls....

      Oh dear. I'm reminded of the trolling and smack-talk in Eve Online, when I used to play. Some of that was truly tragic.

      But people just couldn't ignore it for some weird reason. Even though it was in the system local chat, which you didn't even have any reason to look at. You just needed the list of ships in system, next to it.

      Apparently care bears cry tears over ebil piwates. And this makes the ebil piwates (who I feel sure will have considered themselves to be l33t) feel good, or something.

      1. Thecowking

        Re: Trolls....

        Stop! You're making me nostalgic for my days on the WoW forums.

        Ahh the way you could really annoy people by being completely literal. I do look back on those days with fondness. The best bait was to leave out a line which was sure to get some bites, then dissect every reply for logical fallacies which of course generated masses more ranting until you got people banned.

        Such good sport.

        I do still have a WoW account...

    4. sisk

      Re: Trolls....

      People trolling, just not as much of it due to the number of players online back then?

      I dunno. One MUD I used to play would give any modernish MMO I've ever been on a run for its money in that regard despite only having 50 or so players at any given time.

  15. Tony Haines

    Well played

    "Does that sound familiar, commentards?"

    Why, yes, as a matter of fact, it does.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/02/12/study_shoes_that_online_comment_trolls_are_sadists/

    Also ... nice shoes there Rik.

  16. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    narcissism, sadism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy

    Ah, if only she still loved me!

  17. Crisp

    Trolls like Trolling

    Who knew?

  18. John Hughes

    Machiavellianism?

    What's wrong with that? Pretty smart guy, Niccolò.

    Rather too direct for my liking though.

    1. Denarius Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Machiavellianism?

      Niccolo was a loser who failed at everything he did, and so did his bosses

      1. dogged

        Re: Machiavellianism?

        Cesare Borgia only failed at the very end.

      2. John Hughes

        Re: Machiavellianism?

        Well, yes, like I said, his problem was that he was too direct.

        If he'd been a twisted schemer he might have got further.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Machiavellianism?

          much like the plan for systemd? haha, sorry, couldn't resist

          Anonymous, because I don't have the technical competence to say whether systemd or sysinit is better,

          Admitting my technical ineptitude probably makes for poor trolling. :)

  19. lotus49

    Troll meaning - it depends who uses the word

    Troll is one of those words that I interpret differently according to who says it, very much like hacker.

    If I see it in the mainstream press, I assume they mean someone like that woman who topped herself a few days ago (a course of action more of her kind would be well-advised to follow). If I see it on a net-literate forum, I assume it's someone trying to get a rise out of the forum members using a bit of subtle baiting. The first group, I would quite happily see all chuck themselves off a bridge. The second, I usually ignore unless they are funny. Often, they are.

  20. Yugguy

    The THIN veneer of civilisation

    We are NOT civilised in any way.

    As long their bellies are full and the TV is on people will stay silent. Foul behaviour is kept in check not by high-minded morals but by fear of consequence.

    Take those away and the thin veneer of civilisation is stripped off very quickly.

    1. Denarius Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: The THIN veneer of civilisation

      not lived in tribal societies, have you ? Or read a dictionary. Despite the debasing of the word civilsation to mean any culture, no matter how unstable or nomadic, civilisation means city building. ie settled and organised on a large scale. Despite the efforts of modern education and mass media, it takes a few years to make true barbarians again. Or soccer in an afternoon.;-)

  21. zanshin

    I "knew" a Troll that fit this bill...

    ...but I tend to agree with a lot of other the commenters that most folks many readily consider trolls aren't particularly sadistic or even clearly narcissists. Now, none of folks I knew well enough to think I had any insight in their true personality were people I truly knew well, nor am I an expert in psychology, so perhaps these traits were there but subtle. Some of them were quite bright though, and were capable of Machiavellian twisting of a thread of discussion, though I am not at all sure any of them were doing so with any specific plan in mind beyond to mess with people.

    One, though, the one I refer to in my reply title, did seen a fit for most of characteristic mentioned in this poll/study. He was extremely narcissistic - he simply could not ever admit to being wrong, even when faced with incontrovertible proof that something he posted was false. He spent a lot of his time talking down to people, posting mainly to disagree with folks and always in a disagreeable way, which variously fits the psychopathic and sadistic labels. And, my God, actually engaging in debate with him was like falling down a rabbit hole designed by Daedalus. He would constantly dance and twist and subvert, and if you weren't careful, after about 10 posts you were arguing about something totally different. This was often related to his refusal to accept lines of logic that undercut his argument - he would would drag the discussion away from such things as a red herring debate tactic. He was quite good at it, using an ever-evolving, subtle shift through of sidebar arguments seeming related to the topic at the time, but accumulating to pull things every further into a different area entirely.

    To this day, I don't know if he was a fairly brilliant troll or someone who was deeply disturbed and lashing out online because he could. I lean towards the latter, though.

  22. RedneckMother

    "This makes them vicious, manipulative, cruel, self-obsessed, abusive and quite possibly bananas."

    Sounds like the majority of c-level corporatists and their lackeys... er, politicians.

  23. VeganVegan

    Trolls do play an important entertainment role,

    as long as one feels above the fray.

    Back in the usenet days, there were separate (obviously) discussion groups for Pakistani cricket fans and Indian cricket fans,

    As you might expect, once in a while someone on the one side would post something inflammatory on the other side's forum, and all hell breaks loose (including making reciprocal attacks on the other forum). My Pakistani and Indian friends always found it to be highly amusing wading through the resulting comments.

  24. Denarius Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Alternatively

    @ Trev, good post, have an upvote for making the excellent point about questions that Should Never Be Asked. Especially poignant for me as OZ Official Censorship by the so-called Right wing now equals the Censorship of the so-called Left Wing. Farewell freedom. However the reference to the Dark Tetrad alluded to in article made me think of multinational employed PHBs or local councils, not trolls. Must be a sign of age induced tolerance because the ElReg commentards dont have the viciousness of the newsworthy trolls. Even the materialist religion bigots are mild because of their predictability. BTW, where is aManFromMars lately ?

  25. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Troll versus debate

    "It amuses me that all this hatred of trolls is coming at a time when most mainstream media is deliberately controversial in order to 'spark debate'"

    Mainstream media is dead to me in terms of a news or conversation source. I don't care what they are doing. However, being controversial to spark debate is not trolling.

    Trolls will post comments that are derogatory and probably offensive, but also usually completely off topic. When the troll is successful, they will get lots of responses, but not spark a debate in any meaningful way. The debate *in that thread* will be a back-and-forth between trolls and anti-trolls, off topic and not even a true discussion usually.

    Being controversial to start debate, the quality of the debate varies greatly but it does usually start a genuine conversation of some sort.

    Except when it's political; due to the US's broken 2-party system, the 2 parties true political views are nearly identical, but any discussion devolves into "Republicans" and "Democrats" each pretending their party and the other party are totally different and it's the other party's fault for all problems. Each claims they want to cut the deficit and it's that other party that wants to spend.. then goes on to list a bunch of stuff they want to increase spending on. They'll say the other party excessive government intrusiveness and they don't, then state a list their own big list of things they want the government to step in on. It's really both parties supporting huge government and just squabbling over the details. Oh and both parties think there's some media conspiracy to make them look bad; in reality, Fox News and NPR are pretty slanted, but most news coverage just reports what happened. The problem here, of course, is 3rd partys cannot gain significant support when the polls used only list R or D candidates, not even a general 3rd choice of "none of the above" or "3rd party"; so then these invalid polls are aired to claim there is no 3rd party support; sometimes properly conducted polls have shown as high as 20% 3rd party support while the invalid official polls (unsurprisingly) show 0%.

  26. John Stirling

    @Harry wertz 1

    You seem to have missed criticising the religion/evolution argument and the star trek/wars dispute.

    Good illustration of zanshin's point though

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Troll hunting

    Suffered from trolls on newsgroups but he was defeated.

    Someone found out his real identity, passed it to me, I passed it to the nuttiest of his victims, who phoned him up and warned him.

    The aftermath was hilarious.

    Cured the troll as well.

  28. Cipher

    so, what's your favorite text editor?

    emacs or vi?

    1. launcap Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: so, what's your favorite text editor?

      > emacs or vi?

      joe..

  29. Jeff Lewis

    The one that surprised me is the Debaters scores. Perhaps I'm misinterpreting the term, but to me, it includes people who just want to talk through an idea or perspective without it being personal.. ie. someone who wants to share or validate knowledge or learn from others. Yet, other than not being a narcissist, you still end up with most of the same traits as a troll, albeit to lesser levels.

    I find that rather disappointing, to be honest.

  30. ecofeco Silver badge

    In real life

    In real life we just call them "fucking assholes."

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kindly don't link trolls to BDSM dungeons.

    The majority of people I know who are involved with BDSM dungeons are actually quite sane and well balanced people. Linking them to trolls is a bit much!

    1. Adam Inistrator

      Re: Kindly don't link trolls to BDSM dungeons.

      why dont you just say "some of my best friends are into BDSM"

  32. thomas k.

    vicious, manipulative, cruel, self-obsessed, abusive and quite possibly bananas.

    OMG, Frank! Is that you?

  33. Adam Inistrator

    are trolls ever good?

    is someone like baron sacha cohen a "good" troll?

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