How do trolls and extreme negativity affect our blog community?

I have always believed that trolls and very negative comments create a hostile environment on our blog and shut down the conversation. But now we know, according to a new study, those extremely negative comments do much more damage – actually distorting the facts presented in the article.

From The New York Times:

“The Web, it should be said, is still a marvelous place for public debate. But when it comes to reading and understanding news stories online — like this one, for example — the medium can have a surprisingly potent effect on the message. Comments from some readers, our research shows, can significantly distort what other readers think was reported in the first place.”

“But here, it’s not the content of the comments that matters. It’s the tone.

“In a study published online last month in The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, we and three colleagues report on an experiment designed to measure what one might call “the nasty effect.” …

Click here to read about the study.

“Our emerging online media landscape has created a new public forum without the traditional social norms and self-regulation that typically govern our in-person exchanges — and that medium, increasingly, shapes both what we know and what we think we know.”

What are your thoughts about this study? Do you think the comments influence how you read the article? Do you ever just read the headline and then skip to the comments?

What do you think we should do to cut the negativity and have constructive conversations online?

60 comments Add your comment

motherjanegoose

March 4th, 2013
7:38 am

I am interested in the comments on this topic but have to scoot. Quick question: TWG , I sometimes hijack the blog with a question or topic and wonder if this bothers you? Sometimes, I get chastised by other posters and you have never commented. Please let me know if this is taboo. I will check back in later.

(the other) Rodney

March 4th, 2013
7:43 am

As long as there is anonymity behind blog/forum/thread posts we’ll have the “trolls”. Not rational people who happen to just disagree with either the blog content or what a particular poster has said, but the “trolls” who seem to look for ways to stir the pot.

Which, is really what I think they do – I can’t believe someone can be so vehemently opposed to something as to go online and start calling names and spreading such negativity. *I* think most trolls do it just to watch the rest of us implode (or explode, as is the case sometimes).

I’m a frequent lurker and in-frequent poster to this forum, but I do think you’ve been blessedly free of such trolling – especially when you look over at Wingfield or Bookman’s forums. Some of those folks, I think, would qualify as nutjobs.

Jeff

March 4th, 2013
7:44 am

It’s a little difficult to take the NYT seriously when they talk about distorting facts.

That being said, extreme negativity happens in face to face conversations and every where else.

I like MJG’s approach of just ignoring it.

Actually, other Rodney...

March 4th, 2013
7:47 am

…I think Jay starts his topics in order bring out the nutjobs – On this site there plenty of people who “disagree to disagree”, though for the most part, things on this site are quite civilized…

@really

March 4th, 2013
7:56 am

What does this have to do with “raising healthy children without going insane”?

Real Life

March 4th, 2013
8:40 am

It seems that many writers/bloggers/journalists have a difficult time seeing the difference between criticism and extreme negativity. Exactly where do you draw the line? Who is the judge?

Why is is okay for a writer to call someone a name (troll) but a commenter is not allowed to do so without being called a name in return. We have turned into an overly sensitive society where we are unable or unwilling to stop and look at ourselves, and what we say and write, in as objective manner as possible.

If you do not want to see critics commenting on your blog then require a full name, address and contact number. It would be easier to do this than to decide what is “too negative” for you to handle.

Grasshopper

March 4th, 2013
8:57 am

At least trolls can keep the conversation interesting. Usually there are only a few comments that can be made about a particular topic before it becomes played out and people start repeating the same comments over and over.

A troll may be throwing a bomb that causes people to see things from a totally different perspective. I don’t see that many on your blog or Maureen’s. In particular, Maureen mops them up effectively.

Now Bookman’s blog is another story. He seems to encourage and join in with the trolls quite often, often derailing his own post. After the first 2-3 pages of comments you just know the conversation is going someplace that you really could care less about. Usually it’s all personal attacks from the same 20-30 posters.

Wingfield can get derailed too, but he at least tries to rein it in.

Georgia

March 4th, 2013
9:11 am

Trolls are necessary as a test for earnest bloggers. Swinging at trolls is a credibility killer. If a commenter “feeds” a troll with a response, then that informs the blog about the sophistication and intelligence of the feeder. It also alerts lurkers to conspiring trolls, who support each other’s mud slinging. Many trolls are paid trolls from the different ends of the political spectrum. Some trolls come from commercial boiler rooms pasting links for ads. Commerce has destroyed debate in this country.

The number one rule in troll control is “never, ever, ever, ever get together with a troll”. Never respond to a troll. Never. There’s no upside to it. You can totally out-debate them, but they won’t go away. The next day, there they are, with the exact same snark grenade thrown the exact same way.

the second rule in troll control is never allow a link. just don’t allow it. it cleans up a blog fast.

Actually, the way to allow commenting is to disallow interactive replies to comments. In other words, never allow a direct communique from one comment to another, instead, only allow an address of the issue. So, today, it should be illegal for me to point out that @really’s response was a troll response. (but he did it to illustrate the trolling point that the host was making, I hope), yet Now I’m trolling. Now we’ll engage in a war of whose typing with one hand in their grandma’s basement wearing a tinfoil hat watching pop up goat porn and whose richer and who is a waste of breathing air, space and time etc. oh brother.

Look at Bookman. The same handful of trolls use the exact same language with the exact same snarky approach on every single issue, so that to read ten minutes of comment is to read an entire year’s commentary. And what fun it is to see all the identical emoticons punctuating all the cliches :>/

Besides, the goal of a blog should be so that a reader can glean sentiment about an issue. So, there is no upside to allowing direct conversation. that’s for chat rooms, which Bookman has turned his blog into years ago. There’s a big difference between a chat room and a blog, but someone never told Bookman.

There’s another problem. AJC employees should be banned from commenting on any of the blogs. For obvious reasons. Sponsored opinion is worthless. Trolls are necessary, but only as a guide to avoidance.

buckheadgirl

March 4th, 2013
9:13 am

If a poster does not agree with the blogger it does not make them a troll. Just as making an offer for $5000 less on a $500,000 property does not make the offer a “low ball offer”.

Alberta

March 4th, 2013
9:18 am

Here’s the deal. Adults who call other adults names, can’t handle a difference of opinion, believe only “their way” is right, and think people are stupid because of what they believe or watch on TV, have a BIG problem with self-confidence and self-respect. An adult who calls someone else a name on a blog is certainly going to do so elsewhere in life.

But here’s the sad part. People aren’t born this way. It’s learned behavior. Folks who lack self-respect were most likely raised by parents who had no self-respect, and are raising kids who will have no self-respect.

People who think and behave this way have always been out there, and always will be. It’s just that before PCs, most of us rarely had a chance to interface with them. Now we have the opportunity to interface with them every day.

Superfudge

March 4th, 2013
9:21 am

Word

March 4th, 2013
9:23 am

@Georgia. If reading Jay Bookman upsets you, may I suggest that you don’t read Jay Bookman?

Bernie

March 4th, 2013
9:25 am

So, if if everyone agrees with the topic at hand then that makes everything ok! I don’t think so!

if you make a comment be prepared to defend it without being personal. if you are unable to do that then one is being juvenile.

mom2alex&max

March 4th, 2013
9:31 am

A blog community is all about exchanging opinions. I have participated in MANY online communities where the mods ONLY allow positive (read: agrees with moderator/owner of community) comments. All that does is prevent people from exchanging opinions and debating. If someone can’t handle it when someone won’t cosign your BS, then it’s time to step away from the internet.

Deleting comments, editing comments, banning users, etc serves no purpose other than to only allow your own opinion to be heard. Fine, blog owner has that right. But it doesn’t make for a balanced blog.

mom2alex&max

March 4th, 2013
9:35 am

Most online communities that do participate in usually involve parenting….during the day. At night I’m all about the watersports fetish forums!

Jeff

March 4th, 2013
9:40 am

mom2, that’s just funny. thanks for the laugh.

Aquagirl

March 4th, 2013
9:50 am

Deleting comments, editing comments, banning users, etc serves no purpose other than to only allow your own opinion to be heard. Fine, blog owner has that right.

As usual, mom2alex&max has it ALL RONG!!!11!!!!!! :)

Seriously though, I think there’s a purpose for banning actual trolls. Trolls are not interested in the subject, they’re interested in provoking others. They’ll take any position and use any argument, all are subordinate to the thrill of trolling. That’s not the same as a person who gets into a heated exchange and runs out of bounds. Jay uses “time-outs” and I think those work fine for people who simply lose their temper.

I have seen bloggers ban people for disagreeing but that’s pretty rare. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it on an AJC blog. Heck, I’m not Little Mary Sunshine and nobody’s ever booted me.

I think it’s up to the blogger to distinguish real trolls from people who are actually sincere about their point, then ban trolls with no regrets. It’s a blog for chrissakes. If anyone gets that upset over a blog ban they need to think about why it’s so upsetting.

mom2alex&max

March 4th, 2013
9:50 am

Yeah right. I didn’t post the 2nd comment. Thanks a lot impersonator. I’m already made fun of quite a bit on these forums. I really needed that comment.

Jessica

March 4th, 2013
9:59 am

Debate is a good thing, but excessively rude, offensive, or off-topic comments should be deleted. If they don’t get the pleasure of anonymously offending people, they will get bored and move onto another blog. Sincerely interested readers who sometimes make troll-like comments will learn to state their opinions in a more acceptable way.

Edgewood Adam

March 4th, 2013
10:00 am

@mom2alex&max,

I think its really awesome that you are not only a mother to Alex and Max but that you also are into being peed on. Bravo!!!

Uh, is school...

March 4th, 2013
10:09 am

…out this week? Some of these comments seem to be coming from bored teens…

MatthewH

March 4th, 2013
10:12 am

Just a brief comment: If you are arguing on the internet, you’ve already lost.

Carry on.

Atlanta Mom

March 4th, 2013
10:29 am

I believe that comments should be turned off for any news article that is not being moderated. To say that the comments are not well thought out would be an understatement. It’s embarrassing to think that someone might look at those comments and think they reflect what Atlantans are thinking.

@really

March 4th, 2013
10:34 am

“excessively rude, offensive, or off-topic comments should be deleted. .. Sincerely interested readers who sometimes make troll-like comments will learn to state their opinions in a more acceptable way.”

Thank goodness we have Jessica around to volunteer to define acceptable for everyone.

DB

March 4th, 2013
10:35 am

T, I really, really wish you would require registration for this blog. It does seem to keep things a trifle more civil, and most of all, it prevents trolls from stealing other peoples handles to stir up trouble.

@Georgia: I strongly disagree with your comment “Actually, the way to allow commenting is to disallow interactive replies to comments. In other words, never allow a direct communique from one comment to another, instead, only allow an address of the issue.” Many of the fun exchanges come from the blog community’s interactions with each other. We question, we comment, we exclaim in amazement/disgust — we COMMUNICATE with each other. Let’s face it, if we were limited to simply stating our opinion on a topic, this blog would die pretty quickly. This is a lifestyle column, not a political column — people treat it as more of a coffee-klatch than a platform for debating lofty issues.

Atlanta Mom

March 4th, 2013
10:36 am

And what most (native) Atlantans are thinging is, “DUUUUHHHHHHHHHH”.

Just sayin

March 4th, 2013
10:36 am

I agree that there are trolls out there that make blog discussions horrible, but you usually know when they are doing it and ignore it. The scary part is that a lot of the people posting these negative comments are a little unstable. There is one thing to have a difference of opinion, but many of the comments slide into the darkside REALLY quickly. That is when a moderator needs to step. I also think it is rude when someone hijacks a blog and makes long posts repeatedly to the extent that from the outside you would think it is THEIR blog. This usually turns other posters off to actually wanting to discuss the topic. It also makes you wonder about the person doing it…(control issues maybe?).

catlady

March 4th, 2013
10:47 am

This blog does not seem to attract the many nutjobs on some of the political, and even sports, blogs. Scroll past, if you want. You are NEVER going to get everyone agreeing on any detail of child-raising, Theresa. I appreciate hearing different points of view (although I know I am right, LOL). Makes me think and consider, which is good. It isn’t helpful to surround yourself with yes-men and yes-women all the time. Different folks have different life experiences, and some have had a wider variety of experiences. If you are looking for affirmation, use Facebook.

Techmom

March 4th, 2013
11:06 am

I enjoy the differing opinions, the problem is the A-holes who only come around to insult and instigate arguments. Ignoring them seems to be the most effective way to get rid of them.

Of course there are regulars who refuse to listen to any other opinion which kind of defeats the purpose of having a discussion but you can’t force anyone to open their mind, can you?

williebkind

March 4th, 2013
11:38 am

What is the difference between trolls and drive-by’s? The lady pink person walks up to a lady wearing a fur and throws paint on it. She did not care about any anonymity! Liberals control the largest medias and continue to spew their garbage. Then a conservative replies and they lambast that person with lies and deception. Trolls should be conservative because of the liberals. Then there are blogs who want to show off their education and intelligence. They think they can tell everyone how they should live, how to rear their kids, and how many bullets you can put in your gun.

This is not a land of free but a land of free as someone else sees it.

MomsRule

March 4th, 2013
11:41 am

I usually don’t mind the trolls. If I don’t find them entertaining I skip them. Simple.

I also find it interesting that on more than one occassion I’ve seen “regulars” label someone a troll that brings a different perspective to the table. They aren’t necessarily a troll … just someone with a different opinion. But the stone gets cast pretty quick.

jarvis

March 4th, 2013
12:13 pm

Oddly Rodney Ho’s radio blog seems to be one of the most miserable in the AJC colletion. There seem to be a lot of people who care (or hate) passionately the goings on in that dying medium.

non committal mind reader

March 4th, 2013
12:14 pm

I would say that trolls don’t affect your blog all that much. In more political blogs, trolls are a plague. In fact, several of the folks who commented here ARE, in fact, trolls over in the political blogs.

Decatur Guy

March 4th, 2013
1:36 pm

I’ve seen bloggers threaten other bloggers with physical harm on Bookmans blog. His blog is probably the worst blog of any on the AJC. I think most people who troll are just looking to get a rise out of people.

Decatur Guy

March 4th, 2013
1:38 pm

BTW, a particular blogger on Bookman’s blog had their email hacked by another blogger and had to call the authorities to get it sorted out. I think Bookman ended up banning the blogger who hacked the email address but this kind of stuff is what takes place on his blog on a daily basis. There are some really nasty folks on that blog. Kyle Wingfield usually shuts his blog down every night because of the fights that break out.

Bottom line: There are some really pathetic retards with no job, life or girlfriend.

Decatur Guy

March 4th, 2013
1:39 pm

“Jay uses “time-outs” and I think those work fine for people who simply lose their temper.

He uses time outs only when things get so heated that folks end up making threats.

Mike

March 4th, 2013
1:58 pm

“As long as there is anonymity behind blog/forum/thread posts we’ll have the ‘trolls’.”

There’s a downside to the alternative. I became a “trusted commenter” at NYTimes.com, which was renamed “verified commenter” because they didn’t want to be seen as endorsing anything a “trusted commenter” said.

But that means when I post a comment there, my full real name and picture appear next to it. That prevents me from trolling, which I wouldn’t do anyway, but it also means if I want to say something that anyone would disagree with, I have to think twice. I have an unusual last name and it would take someone ten minutes to find me, and another five minutes to find ways to contact and harrass me.

And why do the comments on AccessAtlanta require you to sign in, so you have a verified screen name that you can’t fake, but on AJC where people are talking about more substantial things, you can call yourself anything, including someone else’s name.

Low Information, High Emotion Person

March 4th, 2013
2:05 pm

Look, there’s no sense in arguing and debating when we both know I’m right. Right?

Aquagirl

March 4th, 2013
2:31 pm

Bookman ended up banning the blogger who hacked the email address but this kind of stuff is what takes place on his blog on a daily basis.

I’m sorry if you got your feelings hurt over there, but no, that’s not a daily occurrence. Neither are threats of violence.

jarvis

March 4th, 2013
3:01 pm

^^^^^Contrarian^^^^^^

Decatur Guy

March 4th, 2013
3:05 pm

“I’m sorry if you got your feelings hurt over there, but no, that’s not a daily occurrence. Neither are threats of violence.”

And right on cue, Aquashrill starts throwing poo. I never got my feelings hurt, child. I just pointed out that someone had their email hacked by a troll. Probably by you. Threats of violence have occurred many times on Bookmans blog whether you want to admit it or not.

Decatur Guy

March 4th, 2013
3:06 pm

BTW, Aquagirl is one of those trolls who has been banned by both Kyle and Jay’s blogs.

Decatur Guy

March 4th, 2013
3:07 pm

“This blog does not seem to attract the many nutjobs on some of the politica

Nope, you’re right. That award goes to Jay Bookman. Nastiest pile of trash this side of Huffingtonpost.

motherjanegoose

March 4th, 2013
3:33 pm

5 stars TWG…you got quite a varied audience today. Interesting!

DB love your first paragraph!

catlady…love this: I appreciate hearing different points of view (although I know I am right, LOL).

I do not have time to visit other blogs and am in awe at the things people have been reporting.

Aquagirl

March 4th, 2013
4:09 pm

Don’t get too awed at “Decatur Guy’s” reports mjg, it’s a notorious AJC troll with Truthiness issues. You can drop in on the other blogs and see the blood and guts are all verbal. Not pretty sometimes—I apologized earlier today for making someone look stupid—but there’s no real drama.

Now, what goes on in some folk’s heads is WW III but that’s probably going on all the time for them.

Atlanta Mom

March 4th, 2013
4:17 pm

Mike,
The sign in required at Access Atlanta is coming to all the AJC blogs, it’s just a matter of time. Then someone won’t be able to steal my name (or anyone else’s). I believe that’s a permanent red card over at Jay’s place.

Cheesy Grits

March 4th, 2013
4:23 pm

Enter your comments here

Mattie

March 4th, 2013
4:27 pm

The best blogs have a moderator who keeps the comments on topic. This is not one of those blogs.

Mike

March 4th, 2013
4:50 pm

Glad to hear it, Atlanta Mom.

I never read Jay’s blog. I sometimes read Kyle’s. If I want to get really really annoyed, I see how far I can get into Kessler’s stuff before he exults “small plates.”

Mike

March 4th, 2013
4:53 pm

Mattie, several blogs I frequent have a voting system on each post, where if something is off-topic or offensive you can down-vote it into oblivion. There’s usually enough people with varying opinions that this doesn’t happen to something just because people disagree.

All the value of a moderator without any trolls popping up to complain about the moderator.