There once was a boy called Jimbo who created a wonderful game. Jimbo was the school inventor and because of this he generally hung around with a lot of the geekier kids. When Jimbo showed them his wonderful game they all loved it and wanted to play with it. Right after they started playing Jimbo started walking over to where the bigger kids were.
“No”, his geeky friends said, “you can’t play with them, some of them are bullies”.
“Don’t worry,” Jimbo said, “we can all play this game together and the cool thing about this game is that when people start being mean, and not playing properly the game helps us all find the mean people and fix what they break.”
“But,” said the geeky kids, “what if they say mean things about us or hit us?”
“Don’t worry,” said Jimbo, “the game will help you. Whenever something nasty happens it’s deliberately amplified so people can fix it. And anyway, just ignore the bullies”.
“But surely,” said the kids, “we need a complicated set of rules that says what you can and can’t do.”
“No,” said Jimbo, “because if we have a complicated set of rules then we might stop something new and exciting from coming out of the game. The playground as a whole will police itself as a whole and everyone will decide what they can and can’t tolerate. Don’t fight the playground,” he said.
Well many years passed and Jimbo became one of the most important boys in the school. But just when he thought things couldn’t get any better a group of particularly naughty boys were particularly mean to one of his best friends who was a girl. And strangely his usual reassurance that she should just ignore the bullies didn’t come. Strangely he didn’t say, don’t fight the playground. Strangely this time he said, here is a completely new set of rules.
He had forgotten his usual mantra. And just as his mantra predicted, everyone ignored him. Jimbo Wales you should know better.
Jimbo Wales in case you aren’t aware is the man responsible for Wikipedia. And one of his friends, Kathy Sierra, had a lot of nasty things said about her on her own blog. And so he and chief geek Tim O’Reilly have decided to create a set of rules about blogging. Jimbo famously once said, “don’t fight the internet”, to explain why Wikipedia works in some ways because of the trolls rather than as expected being destroyed by them. Troll attacks on Wikipedia actually help alert editors to areas on controversy which shouldn’t appear in a neutral point of view article.
All in all, as Doug says, Don’t feed the trolls. It’s the same as ignoring the bullies. They are only after a reaction, it’s much better to not give them one. This massive reaction is exactly, exactly what they wanted. These rules will be ignored by the everyone except the trolls. Why would the trolls pay attention? They will remember every part of the rules line by line and follow Jimbo, Tim and Kathy round the internet pulling them up every time they make a minor transgression. They will do this because that is what bullies do, they know the individuals will have to react.
If you’d like to read the rules then they are here.