At one time or another, all of us in the blogosphere have had to deal with a commenter that was “out there”. I mean someone that either felt they had a good reason to try to ruin your day, or just take pleasure in ruining days, no matter whose.
For the purposes of this article, I refer to both trolls and spammers as trolls, since they have something in common… they want to achieve their desires, at your expense.
There’s a few different ways to handle these creeps, but the method best suited to you depends on several factors. Here’s a handy way to score the situation, to know how to best deal with it, so that it doesn’t harm your blog or its community.
Evaluating Your Community
What sort of atmosphere exists on your blog? Is it a fairly close-knit group, comprised of mostly regular members, that have already established some relationships? Or is it a more formal blog, with reader participation being less familiar, perhaps of a technical nature? This should be considered carefully.
- If you feel it’s a very close-knit group, rate this aspect as a 3. If there is very little familiarity, rate it a 1. If it falls somewhere in between, it’s a 2.
- What sort of attack was the commenter launching? If extremely personal, ie: “You’re a $&%@ idiot”, rate it a 3. If it is rude, but is primarily attacking the theory or premise your post put forth, then rate it a 1. If it falls between the two (or includes both), rate it a 2.
The last consideration is more subjective. You need to consider not only your ability to deal with this attack on a professional level, without losing your cool, but also your regular readers’ ability to not get involved, and the likely effect on the community’s atmosphere. I always make it clear that on my blogs, we “don’t feed the trolls”. By that, I mean, nobody should give them the attention they seek. If anyone is going to address them directly, it should be you.
Of course, there are sometimes members that simply aren’t able to ignore a gauntlet thrown at their feet. If they’ve been around any time at all, you’ll know who they are. Having a member like that on your blog, when such an attack takes place, will enter into your evaluation, as well.
- If you feel as though your readers will stand down, and let you handle the situation, then rate this point a 3. If you have little confidence that your readers won’t engage the troll, rate it a 1. If somewhere in between, it’s a 2.
Considering Your Options
Now add up your score. The minimum is 3, the maximum is 9. Here’s what I would advise you to use as a general rule of thumb:
9 Don’t even think about it. Trash him immediately, and don’t look back. Blacklist his IP, tell your members you’re sorry, but you’ve handled it, and get back on topic.
7-8 Delete the trolls comment, and while you’re at it, delete him, as well. Grab his IP first, and add it to your blog’s blacklist. Tell your members you’ve taken out the trash, and apologize, if appropriate, for them having had to put up with the disturbance.
5-6 Engage the troll. Once! Tell him he’s out of line, and as much as you hope he’ll tone it down, and stick around to participate in the discussion, if he repeats his previous behavior, you’ll be banning him, his IP address and his first-born. If he repeats, make good on your promise, swiftly and with gusto. Simply tell your readers he apparently didn’t appreciate being given a second chance. Then move on.
3-4 Delete him immediately, add him to your blacklist, and unless directly questioned by a reader, don’t even mention it further. If questioned, just briefly state that the troll/spammer/drunken buffoon somehow made it past your filters, and you’ve removed him. Give it no more discussion than absolutely necessary. The idea here is to minimize the impact, so as to not chase off any readers that feel uncomfortable witnessing any sort of confrontation. You might be surprised how many people there are like that.
You probably noticed that none of the recommended actions included ignoring him, hoping he’ll lose interest and go away. That’s because he won’t. Bad behavior doesn’t change, without consequences. If you allow such behavior, it will only get worse. Nip it in the bud!
Protect Your Community
It’s important to remember that your readers expect you to maintain the atmosphere they came there for. Even first-time visitors hold certain expectations, and rightfully so… regular members, even more so. It is your responsibility to ensure that each visitor is treated with respect. You may even have to step up and say something occasionally between two regular members. The need for respect isn’t diminished by familiarity.
Almost equally important, try not to let it affect YOU. You’re going to take it personally, that’s a given. They came into YOUR home, and spit on the floor. But you need to handle it, and put it behind you. It goes with the territory. You wanted to be a blogger, and you wanted your blog to become a special place. It’s inevitable that someone else, without the ambition or ability to do the same, will envy you, and try to rain on your parade. Don’t allow them to take any more from you than the couple of minutes necessary to delete and blacklist.
As your blog gains popularity, you’ll find you’ll get pretty good at it, and it’ll only take you a few seconds.