Wikipedia:Dealing with trolls

NOTE: THIS POLL IS CLOSED

SEE NEW POLL

Because of problems with this poll (no end-date sent and no definition of what constitutes trolling) this poll is hopelessly riddled with problems. A new poll has been started at Wikipedia:Trolling poll. Please vote there. →Raul654 19:01, Jul 10, 2004 (UTC)


After a four-month deadlock in the arbitration committee, it seems appropriate that this question should be decided by the user community at large.

Is it acceptable for sysops to ban obvious trolls? (NOW CLOSED) (31/18/1)

Support

  1. Ambivalenthysteria 07:20, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  2. Youbetcha. RickK 07:31, Jul 3, 2004 (UTC)
  3. No duh. --MerovingianTalk 07:35, Jul 3, 2004 (UTC)
  4. 172 07:47, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  5. Danny 08:13, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  6. Everyking 08:24, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  7. Tannin 09:25, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC) If it isn't, then there really isn't much point in having sysops at all.
  8. Definitely. Where to draw the line for 'obvious' is another debate entirely. Morwen - Talk 11:00, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  9. Yes. Obvious should mean flouting the system (e.g. troll-reference in user-name plus provocative or revenant behaviour). Charles Matthews 11:11, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  10. Yes, Jimbo said so as well I believe. Dori | Talk 12:36, Jul 3, 2004 (UTC)
    I don't think he did - can you reference that? Mark Richards 19:53, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  11. Support -- Graham ☺ | Talk 13:34, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  12. Yes, and let's not water down this resolution by trying to define "troll" and "obvious" in detail - I trust the judgement of 98% of admins on this matter. --H. CHENEY 15:03, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  13. Support JoJan 15:50, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  14. Timwi 16:08, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  15. olderwiser 16:15, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  16. It's important to assume good faith, but not to the point of being naive and allowing good contributors to be driven off. Isomorphic 16:29, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  17. Support. Particularly when they go out of their way to make it clear that trolling is their aim eg. users with "troll" in their username, or variations on previously banned names. -- The Anome 16:50, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  18. Tarquin Admins are people whose judgement we broadly trust. So provided they ban obvious "u r gay", "the holocaust never happened", "relativity is false" etc trolls, and will take being overturned with good grace, yes.
  19. Infrogmation 17:30, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC) Yes, with the stipulation that I think we are talking about a "block" rather than a "ban" here (ban seems to me to be a more formal procedure). This can be a useful tool to minimize damage. And remember that if some admin makes a bad judgement call, any other admin can unblock.
  20. EddEdmondson 17:46, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  21. Yes. Sysops will at times make horrible and inecusable errors. So allow appeals. But get the trolling and obvious anti-encyclopedic behavior out of here. jallan 19:11, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  22. Yes. People who come to the project to incite conflict should be asked to leave. UninvitedCompany 00:19, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  23. gadfium 02:33, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  24. Alteripse 02:36, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC) People, it isn't that hard. You look at whether someone spends more time editing or arguing, how they respond to a disagreement, how much they perseverate over minutiae, how much time of real contributers they waste, how much they complain about those who do the work here, and how quickly they support the few others whose purpose here seems to be other than writing. Nobody "accidentally" does all those things and they will keep right on doing them until we don't let them. We need spend more effort giving positive reinforcement to those who do the work here and less attention and agonizing over those who can't or won't.
  25. Wile E. Heresiarch 23:53, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC) Agreed w/ Alteripse.
  26. Hell yes! Neutrality 01:17, 8 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  27. yes. -- Chris 73 | Talk 16:12, 10 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  28. Support despite poor wording. Cribcage 18:13, 11 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Conditionally support

  1. Dysprosia 08:09, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC) if and only if they have not been contributing productively also
  2. Support but i do think we will need a strict definintion of what obvious trolling is. There are going to be arguments otherwise. theresa knott 08:20, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  3. Support, so long as the final policy is specific and clear. -JCarriker 09:57, Jul 3, 2004 (UTC)
  4. Agree with Dysprosia. Also, I think that we need to have a page set up where sysops explicitly explain/give evidence for their blocks/bans (forgive me if we already do). blankfaze | •• | •• 10:17, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  5. SkArcher 19:24, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC) Concur with Dysprosia - meaningful contribution to Wikipedia should be a rule that prevents an Admin from taking this course. Also agree that we must maintain good faith in case of naive new users. A procedure for reversal is also a given. But with these proper safeguards in place - yes, an Admin should take this course in order to safeguard the project.

Oppose

  1. This is another false problem designed by the community as a way to spend the weekend. For me, obvious trolling = vandalism, and that is already discussed to nausea. If obvious trolling not equal to vandalism, then i oppose. Muriel G 15:41, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  2. Oppose, mainly for the reason that a significant minority of people use the term "troll" to mean "user who annoys me." I trust the judgement of 95% of sysops 95% of the time, and I don't believe that we need to endorse banning of "obvious trolls" in order to strengthen the position of sysops within the present system. Poorly defined "rules" tend to cause more problems than they solve. -- Seth Ilys 16:40, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  3. I reluctantly have to agree with Seth, based on some of the people that some sysops have seen fit to categorise as trolls - people who, in my opinion, did not warrant a lifetime ban. I continue to support blocking of obvious reincarnations of banned users. Perhaps it would be worth writing a page on wikipedia:dealing with trolls? Martin 17:03, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  4. I agree with Ragnärok that this poll is in violation of the quickpolls policy. Also, I am worried that, for example, my nomination of Plato would have been reason enough under this policy for someone like RickK to block me. Of course, I would be able to unblock myself, but most would not, so this would give 250-some people too much power over the community. Guanaco 17:35, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
    I never said I would block you because of your nomination of Plato. That is nothing but a straw man argument. What I said was that I was considering asking to have you desysopped for your continuous practice of unbanning hard-banned users without discussion or consensus. RickK 22:20, Jul 3, 2004 (UTC)
    It's not a strawman, there are a couple of sysops who are obvious trolls as far as I can see. If I were into banning, I would ban them first. The problem is that we don't agree on what an obvious troll is. Mark Richards 02:21, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  5. Jimbo has ruled that sysops can only ban in cases of clear vandalism. The term here, "obvious trolling" is simply being used to broaded the previous category -- now they want to ban everyone who has a minority viewpoint, which they don't feel is significant enough to warrant inclusion. Lirath Q. Pynnor
    I'm reinstating this vote because I don't believe being blocked by Hcheney is sufficient grounds for removal of vote. Martin 19:20, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
    I strongly dispute this vote because Lir was blocked for using sockpuppets to manipulate another election on Wikipedia. The attitude of letting trolls vote and generally being weak on trolling and vandalism (like the arbitration committee with it's neverending inaction), will be the undoing of Wikipedia. --H. CHENEY 19:24, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
    There is no evidence to support such claims. There never has been, there never will be. Lirath Q. Pynnor
    That people have been accused and/or blocked in the past is not grounds for blocking their ability to vote on matters. Am reinstating. James F. (talk) 19:28, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
    I am sure that people will take into account Lir's prior actions when deciding how much faith to place in his opinion. Martin 19:32, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
    Last time I checked, votes were not weighed at Quickpolls, unlike Request for Adminship. --H. CHENEY 19:35, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
    If this was a valid quickpoll, that might be important. Martin 19:52, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  6. Agree with Seth and Martin; Lir's phrasing is particularly accurate. James F. (talk) 19:26, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  7. Troll is not a useful label. Punish people for specific misdeeds, not this bizarre pejorative jargon. Sam [Spade] 19:32, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  8. Acegikmo1 19:40, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC). I agree with Seth and Sam.
  9. There is no definition of troll - people should be banned for actions not a subjective reading of their intentions. Secretlondon 19:44, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  10. While I might support short blocks in certain extremely limited situations (which should be defined before a poll takes place), I oppose bans which take place without involvement of the community at large and/or the arbitration committee. anthony (see warning)
  11. "Obvious trolling" is hopelessly vague. I'm open to saying that certain specific practices can lead to bans, but this is just an invitation to banning people someone finds annoying. Several users with extreme views, but enormous knowledge have been accused of trolling. They are a valuable part of strengthening the Wikipedia. -- Jmabel 22:12, Jul 3, 2004 (UTC)
  12. Oppose. No one has defined it. The Arbitration Committee rejected this idea already. Ban vandals, people who attack other users, people who refuse to discuss edits. 'Troll' is just a word for someone who annoys us, and that's not a good reason to ban someone. Don't feed trolls is better advice. -- Mark Richards
  13. Oppose. Basically I aggree with Mark. We do have a real problem, but this proposal is inadequately defined. There needs to be a clear code of conduct with specified procedures for giving fair warning and time limits on blocks. An immediate 48 hour block, without warning, is only appropriate for users whose major "contribution" has been to repeat the behavior of a previously banned user. An explanation of the reason for the block should be left on the blocked users talk page. Each time a new user appearred repeating the previous behavior then the duration of the blocking interval would be doubled. Erich 03:54, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  14. Oppose, abuse of sysop power is possible. Comrade Nick @)---^--- -
  15. Oppose, Webopedia defines "Troll", the verb, like this: "To deliberately post derogatory or inflammatory comments to a community forum, chat room, newsgroup and/or a blog in order to bait other users into responding". And the noun, as "one who performs...the above".Well, if that is all, what has happened to the good sense of the Wikipedians? The thing is not to rise to the challenge, isn't it? Block a vandal, yes, for vandalizing, but not a so-called troll for the above misdemeanour, please. We should have enough perspicacity to be able to ignore such a contribution. I agree with Mark Richards. Dieter Simon 00:00, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC) -
    I suggest looking at Internet troll for a better discussion. And exactly how long do you ignore garbage in an article that is not quite obvious vandalism? To ignore and walk away is a good suggestion, from the article and from Wikipedia. People are doing it because of frustration. Fighting with trolls or trying to convert trolls isn't what they were here for. If an article is changed for the worse here, someone is supposed to respond. This isn't usrnet where trolls can be theoretically be ignored with less harm. But in fact damage done by trolling and fuggheadedness on usrnet is incaluable. Bad does drive out good when there are many other places that good can go to. jallan 01:10, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)
    We as admins should really be concerned with vandalism only. It is vandalism every time we should worry about. If a person continues to vandalize, he/she should be banned for a length of time depending on the misdemeanour. The word "troll" is less than helpful, it is open to misinterpretation and anyone can call anyone else a troll. Therefore "trollness" should be treated with suspicion, because it doesn't mean much. That is how I would see my role. Dieter Simon 23:03, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  16. Oppose. This just doesn't look like a real problem. Intrigue 16:30, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  17. Find a concrete definition of "obvious" and "trolling" and I'll support this. Until then, limit insta-blocks and bans to vandals. -Sean Curtin 01:25, 9 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  18. Oppose. We ought not block for something that is not forbidden under Wikipedia policy. Pass a proposal on trolling in general and I might support a policy along these lines. (I have, it should be noted, proposed such a policy at Wikipedia:Trolling, though my point is really that we need a policy against trolling, not my specific policy against trolling.) Snowspinner 06:30, Jul 10, 2004 (UTC)
  19. How free is Wikipedia really when there are cops (by any other name...) telling users what sort of posts are "crimes" that will get them "banned". Our community is strong enough to combat anti-social and counter-productive behavior without setting up beaurocratic and hierarchical enforcment options. Yingdan 00:17 Jul 11, 2004 (ETS)
    Apparent sock-puppet. Isomorphic 03:57, 12 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  20. Not without some due process and community agreement first. Some individuals are already too keen on banning instead of explaining and discussing and that needs discouragement, not encouragement. Jamesday 12:06, 12 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Trust and responsibility

Trying to formulate a precise definition of "troll" is (a) probably impossible, and (b) counterproductive. It is precisely this type of legalism that trolls thrive on. The more careful and more detailed a definition is, the more loopholes there are for trolls to exploit. For a troll, our attempt to define "trolling" is the Holy Grail: from there on, the possibilities for disruption are virtually unlimited.

No. The answer is to trust our sysops to make calm, common-sense judgements.

If we can't trust a sysop to do this, then that person shouldn't be a sysop in the first place.

Everyone makes mistakes, and we need to allow our sysops a certain amount of slack, but in the end, if a sysop consistently goes too far, then they are not performing their duties properly and should go back to being a regular editor. A "three strikes" rule might be an appropriate starting point. After three significant blunders (defined, perhaps, as "bannings that were overturned by community consensus, and regarded as non-borderline matters") a sysop becomes an ordinary editor again, without admin powers. After a reasonable period (say three months) that former sysop may, if he or she desires, be nominated and approved for adminship in the normal way.

A problem with this approach is that it is one-sided. It "punishes" sysops who make one sort of mistake (going too far) but does not sanction sysops who go too far in the other direction (i.e., those who ignore or even support anti-social behaviour such as trolling). I am not sure what steps we can take to overcome this, bar simply being aware of it and reminding ourselves of it from time to time.

Tannin 01:51, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)

As far as sysops who ignore the problem, I'm not sure anything should really be done, and don't really consider it a big deal. Many of our administrators hardly do any administrative work. And that's fine, they still have the ability to do so in an emergency.
As far as sysops who support disruptive activity, I don't see why a similar three-strikes procedure couldn't be implemented (e.g., for an administrator who unblocks an account when such action is found to be contrary to community consensus). - Hephaestos|§ 02:03, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)

That sounds reasonable to me, Hephaestos. How about we define a "strike" as something like: "a blocking or unblocking action contrary to community consensus"? Nice and simple, seems to cover all the possibilities. Tannin

Given the absence of a small number of administrators I'd happily support using individual judgement. Unfortunately, those few persuade me that we need some clear sign of community agreement before acting. Jamesday 12:17, 12 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Comments

Sigh. Language again: the issue needs to be better defined - what is obvious and what is not obvious? Clear and definite guidelines need to be stated before one can make an informed decision. It's not easy to answer and have a discussion on a rather broad statement, by means of a simple, binaristic poll. Dysprosia 07:14, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I would argue that if it's not obvious, it's not trolling. - Hephaestos|§ 07:18, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Then what exactly could be constituted as trolling? Dysprosia 07:25, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I think the language is clear enough, as Heph said. If someone is clearly not contributing to the community, and is here only to harrass legitimate users, then for the sake of the project, they must go. Otherwise we risk legitimate users being driven away, for no useful purpose. Ambivalenthysteria 07:20, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Is this about the issue of including "troll" in a user name, and whether that alone is grounds for banning? I don't support that, but only because I don't think that's sufficiently obvious. But name + behavior is, of course. Everyking 07:52, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I absolutely agree, name + behavior. Or, simply blatant behavior. This isn't a name thing per se. - Hephaestos|§ 07:54, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I too worry that "obvious troll" is rather poorly defined, and if this policy is implemented, that that term will start being tossed around an awful lot by sysops with a grudge. Are said trolls really such a huge problem that a quickpoll would not be quick enough? VV[[]] 08:13, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Quickpolls are a pain. It seems pretty clear that this is only going to be used to ban those which are obvious - those who are not contributing anything, and just harrassing users. This saves the rest of us having to put up with them for a month or three while the arbitration committee gets its act together.
It's plainly clear to every sysop that misusing their blocking privileges has consequences. I think that's reflected already by the votes of certain users here, who while they might be called "trolls" by some people, know what this obviously isn't going to be used against them. Ambivalenthysteria 08:55, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)

I do not like the caveat which suggests that a person is not trolling simply because they also make "productive contributions". Anyone can go through making typo fixes, adding categories etc. and find a loophole that way. On the other hand, the suggestion that sysops be required to explicitly explain/give evidence for their blocks/bans is excellent. - Hephaestos|§ 14:33, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)

I think "sysops be required to explicitly explain/give evidence for their blocks/bans" is too broad, since it covers anything from stopping a long-term user being deemed a troll to blocking an anon vandal on a rampage of defacing articles or user pages. I think sysops need to be able to make honest decisions in a fast moving situations and feel they are trusted. I think it is obvious that where a decision is controversial, the sysop should explain it appropriately, and, of course a sysop should always be prepared to explain a decision in as much detail as necessary if anyone asks. Remember, a ban can be reversed as easily as its placed. -- Cecropia | Talk 15:14, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
To explain my condition as stated above, I mean to say that not just a minor glut of just minor fixes, categories, or whatever is to be considered as productive, but also a large number of solid, substantial edits, sustained over a fair amount of time - this means that a potential troll cannot just make a few edits here and there to look "good", in order to avoid being blocked. This requirement is merely to underscore the line between "obvious" troll or not. Dysprosia 15:43, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Wholeheartedly support both points above. As for the definition of "obvious", it is the much-maligned "I know it when I see it" principle, except that in the Wiki community it is not a Bad Thing. Architeuthis 15:05, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)

In response to Muriel, there are "obvious trolling" behaviors which are not vandalism. Nominating a vandal for adminship would qualify. Spurious listings on Requests for Comment and Vandalism in Progress can also qualify, as does a blatant attempt to bait other users into a fight. Also, I'm not really worried about blocking power being abused. After all, it can be easilly reversed. Also, I think it's pretty obvious that an admin with poor judgement wouldn't be able to make many bad bans before losing their status. Isomorphic 16:27, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)

The trouble is to distinguish between trolls, fuckheads (we so need a more PG-rated name for them) - the two are QUITE different, and the second are IMO a bigger problem - and the obsessive hybrid creature that 142 has clearly become - David Gerard 18:16, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
While I do see the difference between the two, the damage both cause is essentially the same, therefore administrative handling of the two should be essentially the same. It is overly difficult and ultimately unnecessary to attempt to discern motives. - Hephaestos|§ 18:48, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Yes. Ban. But ban with access to an open page to lodge complaints about the ban. Ban with right to easy and quick appeal and any sysop whose bans to bans-overruled are over a set percentage amount gets de-sysopped for a year. Something like that. And agreed that "fuckheads" are the bigger problem, or rather fuckheadedness. jallan 19:03, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)
You say that "nominating a vandal for adminiship" qualfies as obvious trolling. Perhaps so, but I would hope that we would be a bit more forgiving than to ban someone for something so innocent. Should we have banned the person who nominated Jimbo for adminship, since that was obviously trolling? Or do we have open trolling season every April 1? If someone is nominating a large number of people in a short period of time, I could see a temporary block. But anything less severe needs to be handled by the arbitration committee. The arbitration committee could instruct the user to stop nominating vandals, perhaps even give a short ban on nominating anyone for adminship. Banning is just the wrong solution to such a problem. The arbitration committee has its problems, but I don't think they can be accused of not dealing with obvious trolling. anthony (see warning)

There is no way that people are going to agree on what is 'obvious trolling'. Nominating someone you don't like for adminship, expressing an opinion you don't like on their userpage, honestly, get over yourself and ignore it, article vandalism, refusing to constructively discuss edits - there is a problem, and one that can be dealt with. This is just looking for trouble, and is not effective in any event, it just creates more trouble. If you play this game, you have already lost. Mark Richards 22:51, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Whether a user is here mainly to disrupt is a judgement call, and so judgement and a level head are called for. Trying to define "trolling" is pointless and at best likely to result in trolls that game the system, and disrupt as much as they can while remaining in compliance with policy's mechanical provisions. As with many issues, the outcome on borderline issues is relatively unimportant -- if someone is making a few valuable contributions but is also a pain in the ass, the project will succeed whether they are banned or not. One thing is clear, though, and that is that trolls are at present doing far more damage than a handful of bans would do, because they are driving away good contributors. UninvitedCompany 00:50, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)

First of all, I agree with you that whether a user is here mainly to disrupt is a judgement call. That's why I think it should be handled by the arbitration committee, not the sysops. Sysops are more of an executive branch of wikipedia, and the arb committee is more of a judicial branch. I think this is important to keep in mind, because the arbitration committee has to explain its actions in detail. This gives them much more credibility to make judgement calls, in my view.
As for whether or not the outcome is important, I believe it is quite important. Yes, the project will succeed whether or not any individual contributor stays or goes, but the project will not succeed, at least will not reach its potential, if a small subset of users is able to arbitrarily control who stays or goes. Individual bans are not what is important. It's the cumulative effect of the bans combined with the power that this group of people has merely in setting rules which cannot be challenged without fear of bans. According to Wikipedia:administrators, "sysops are not imbued with any special authority". It seems to me that sysops have been working quite hard to subvert this, without even admitting that that is what they are doing.
Trolls may drive away good contributors, but giving sysops the authority to arbitrarily ban users would drive away far more.
If obvious trolls are destroying wikipedia, why not bring this to the arbitration committee? If it's obvious, then it should be no problem getting community consensus against the user, and with such consensus I find it hard to imagine the arbitration committee wouldn't act.
anthony (see warning)

This cuts right to the point. A group of some of the more obvious troll sysops are running around claiming that the sky is falling and that the only solution is to give them more power - much more power, and no accountability to go with it. If there is an obvious problem then the AC can deal with it. Sysop mission creep is not the answer, it's the problem. Mark Richards 19:59, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Trust and responsibility

Trying to formulate a precise defenition of "troll" is (a) probably impossible, and (b) counterproductive. It is precisely this type of legalism that trolls thrive on. The more carefull and more detailed a definition is, the more loopholes there are for trolls to exploit. For a troll, us trying to define "trolling" is the Holy Grail: from there on, the possibilities for disruption are virtually unlimited.

No. The answer is to trust our sysops to make calm, common-sense judgements.

If we can't trust a sysop to do this, then that person shouldn't be a sysop in the first place.

Everyone makes mistakes, and we need to allow our sysops a certain amount of slack, but in the end, if a sysop consistently goes too far, then they are not performing their duties properly and should go back to being a regular editor. A "three strikes" rule might be an appropriate starting point. After three significant blunders (defined, perhaps, as "bannings that were overturned by community consensus, and regarded as non-borderline matters") a sysop becomes an ordinary editor again, without admin powers. After a reasonable period (say three months) that former sysop may, if he or she desires, be nominated and approved for adminship in the normal way.

A problem with this approach is that it is one-sided. It "punishes" sysops who make one sort of mistake (going too far) but does not sanction sysops who go too far in the other direction (i.e., those who ignore or even support anti-social behaviour such as trolling). I am not sure what steps we can take to overcome this, bar simply being aware of it and reminding ourselves of it from time to time.

Tannin 01:51, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)

As far as sysops who ignore the problem, I'm not sure anything should really be done, and don't really consider it a big deal. Many of our administrators hardly do any administrative work. And that's fine, they still have the ability to do so in an emergency.
As far as sysops who support disruptive activity, I don't see why a similar three-strikes procedure couldn't be implemented (e.g., for an administrator who unblocks an account when such action is found to be contrary to community consensus). - Hephaestos|§ 02:03, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)

That sounds reasonable to me, Hephaestos. How about we define a "strike" as something like: "a blocking or unblocking action contrary to community consensus"? Nice and simple, seems to cover all the possibilities. Tannin

The definition of troll

I avoid using the word troll myself, and regret the few times I have used it. Through overuse we have reduced the word to near-meaninglessness, which explains the many comments saying it needs to be defined, but I also sympathize with the argument that it is undefinable. Personally, I have concluded that calling someone a troll is a personal attack like any other, and therefore prohibited under our policy against personal attacks, which is why I no longer use the word.

However, some of the people we call trolls are clearly causing serious problems, and we need an effective way to deal with them. Giving administrators the authority to block (not ban) such users seems appropriate to me. But we need some kind of policy to guide this and help admins exercise good judgment in imposing such blocks. As the initial JRR Trollkien arbitration case illustrated, simply saying someone is a troll is not good enough (even when the person "says" it themselves). The case for blocking or banning has to be made on the basis of behavior, so we must describe the behavior that constitutes "trolling".

Jimbo once defined trolling as "misrepresenting oneself in order to get a reaction from people." This might be a starting point, but I think it's just one example. We should have a broader definition that covers this, so that we can use good judgment and also recognize new forms of "trolling" that we might not have anticipated. I partially agree we shouldn't have a detailed definition, and partially disagree. I think the general principle should be broad, but should be illustrated with more precise examples.

Therefore, my proposed definition of trolling behavior is: Deliberately disrupting Wikipedia with no conceivable justification for doing so. We have a proposed policy of Don't disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point, but it's unclear whether this has consensus support. But I think we can all agree that if you don't have a point to illustrate, then you have no excuse for intentionally causing disruption.

Specific examples would include:

  • Deliberately imitating a banned user
  • Repeatedly defacing or blanking legitimate articles (i.e. things covered by the limited definition many people use for vandalism)
  • Using sockpuppet accounts to vote more than once
  • Direct threats of death or bodily harm to other users
  • Choosing a "troll" username + other disruptive behavior (the username alone isn't enough, but a lower tolerance for disruptive behavior is appropriate for such users)

In my opinion, it is not possible to provide a legitimate reason why someone would do any of these things.

The definition specifically would not include:

  • Violations of the 3-revert limit, even if they involve 100+ reverts
  • Other types of "wars", such as disputes over blocks or page moves
  • Personal attacks

This is quite specifically not an objective definition; it depends on admins exercising judgment, and therefore is not subject to gaming by the "trolls". The examples are meant to illustrate, and if we encounter new examples in dealing with these people, we should be prepared to add them. If anybody wants to challenge or add to the examples I have listed, in either category, please do so. --Michael Snow 05:59, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Too many of these are subjective. How to we determine if I am "deliberately" imitating a banned user? I was accused of being a banned user early upon coming here, by more than one admin. I'm not, and my IP was different (lucky me I don't live in the wrong part of Canada, or I'd prob be banned now ;) but mistakes could have been made. I was nearly offended enough to depart. Vandalism is already vandalism, and needn't be a factor in determining trolling. My fear frankly is that based on a "gut feeling" or personal dislike/annoyance, certain admins will ban willy-nilly creating an unfriendly atmosphere. If more rules are needed, or more enforcement of existing rules, lets do that. Giving legitimacy to a very dubious label (I agree that its a personal attack) would do little good. Sam [Spade] 06:35, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)
It's inevitably subjective. Using an exact definition of trolling would be a mistake. Nothing makes trolls happy like a rule. They thrive on rules. Trolls are the sort who, if you say that doing something obnoxious X times will get them banned, will inevitably do it X-1 times. If you say that personal attacks are forbidden, they will instead try to provoke good editors into attacking them, and then call for those editors to be banned if they succeed. If you say that reverting more than 3 times is not allowed, they will make each edit just different enough not to be called a revert. I agree with Michael: trolling occurs when "it is not possible to provide a legitimate reason" for someone's actions. Isomorphic 06:54, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)

It's one thing to accuse somebody of being a banned user just because they get involved in controversy early in their Wikipedia careers, and seem overly familiar with our policies and how things operate here. I think that's what happened with Sam when he first arrived. It's rather different when someone cultivates the impression that they are a banned user like Michael, or when a new user immediately goes to the same areas frequented by EntmootsOfTrolls to promote the same viewpoints and make the same or similar edits. Anyone who blocks a reincarnation/imitation of a banned user should be able to explain good reasons why they believed the account should be blocked. For an example, see my block of User:Trollhammer in the block log. --Michael Snow 18:23, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Enforcement

'The definition specifically would not include:

  • Violations of the 3-revert limit, even if they involve 100+ reverts
  • Other types of "wars", such as disputes over blocks or page moves
  • Personal attacks '

What if we did enforce these rules? Wouldn't that solve pretty much everything? Sam [Spade] 06:37, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)

No. See above. Trolls love rules. Isomorphic 06:54, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)
So we'll refrain from enforcing rules, just to spite the trolls? And we'll invent new, poorly defined rules so that we can punish the real offenders (those who havn't broken any specific rule)? Hmmm... Sam [Spade] 18:01, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)

My point is not that these other rules shouldn't be enforced, if we have a consensus for them. But they should be enforced through the normal dispute resolution process, because they're not part of the definition of trolling. --Michael Snow 18:23, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)

My point is that if these rules were enforced, we'd be fresh out of the legitimate problems behind trolling. Sam [Spade] 19:29, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Should someone implement a stronger permissions system then just having pages protected/not protected? An example is the development system for the GNU C compiler. They have set up a system which involves full write access, write access only to parts of the source, etc. There should be a system of something like Unix permission bits, but the write is normally on. I.e. a list like

UserFoo w PageFoo
UserBar - PageBar

showing that UserFoo has permission to edit PageFoo and UserBar does not have permission to edit PageBar. Get the idea?

Subjectivity

The unfortunate subjectivity of this all is strikingly reminiscent of the new ideas regarding "hate speech" (also being discussed on the mailing list). Sam [Spade] 20:17, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)

My two cents: I'm with you Sam, of course it is possible to codify the rules that allow a sysop to take immediate action. In some cases this should be a 24 hour block only, and unless they appear to be a user previously banned by the AC then they should get 'fair warning' before being blocked. Sorry the argument that 'trolls love rules' maybe true, but if it limits there behaviour then the mission is accomplished. Goading someone into biting you should hardly be a banning offence. People have to live with themselves (without any friends) and sometimes that is punishment enough. If it is not the AC can sort them out. best wishes Erich 22:58, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Good points. Were it up to me sysops would have the option of a maximum 24hr ban (for flexable reasons), which if misused enough would result in desysoping. Sam [Spade] 00:01, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)

An alternative proposal

Well, i've had a stab at putting together something with more checks and balances and some attempt to define what this is about. It needs editing... but please come and give it an edit or start a debate on the talk page. Erich 06:17, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)

I've moved the proposal and put in the 'think tank'. Go on, have a look! Erich 07:28, 9 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  • This proposal kind of grows on you. Anyone else like it? Alteripse 00:03, 10 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Is this needed?

It seems to me that "troll" in the sense that people are using it here is something that's already covered in the vandalism page. The definition of vandalism is "Vandalism is bad-faith addition, deletion, or change to content, made in a deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of the encyclopedia." The fact that it takes us mildly longer to notice that trolls are doing this is evidence of nothing beyond our assumption of good faith on the part of new users. (I know the vandalism page says trolling is not vandalism, but its definition of trolling is deliberately attracting flames, which is I think different from what most of us mean when we say, for instance, that User:Lir is a troll.)

Sysops are already entrusted, clearly, with the right to make judgment calls on whether a user's edits are in good faith or bad faith, because their authority to block vandals requires making the distinction between bad faith edits and good faith edits that suck. I think all we really need is for more sysops to make these judgments. Snowspinner 09:49, Jul 5, 2004 (UTC)

Well I think (it's a pity the proposers of this policy didn't define it themselves) the issue is there is currently a large gap between the sorts of behaviour everybody feels comfortable trigging a lone-ranger-sysop-style ban and the behaviour taken on by the AC. We waste a lot of energy dealling with antisocial personalities in the middle ground but have no due process for dealing out swift justice. Erich 11:43, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Snowspinner's states: "Sysops are already entrusted, clearly, with the right to make judgment calls on whether a user's edits are in good faith of bad faith ... " I don't agree with "clearly". Obviously many others do not agree with "clearly" or this poll would not exist and there would not be debate. The policy needs to be made clearer, and judging from the response to the poll, clearer in the direction that Snowspinner's interpretation indicates. Another difficulty is that one cannot often tell the difference between "bad faith edits and good faith edits that suck." Does it make sense that exactly the same edit should be disallowed when perceived as trolling in bad faith but allowed if perceived as honest nuttiness in good faith, an honest presentation of someone's "Truth"? How is the sysop to know, especially when required to "assume" good faith? jallan 14:31, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)


I think that the vandalism policy in its current form really does go a long way towards answering this, in that it establishs that there is a difference between bad faith edits and good faith edits that suck. ("Any good-faith effort to improve the encyclopedia, even if misguided or ill-considered, is not vandalism.") The fact that it makes this distinction and also instructs sysops to block persistant vandals seems to me to necessarily mean that sysops are to make judgments about whether one is editing in good faith or not. Snowspinner 16:07, Jul 5, 2004 (UTC)
"honest nuttiness"! now there is a precious phrase that deserves to live on in perpetuity! but I wish people'd have a look at my proposal above. It took me a good hour or two to nut it all out, but it provides a flexible mechanism just by changing the numbers to something reasonable... think getting three sysops together is too honerous? well change it to 2. This 10 unhelpful edits is too many, then change it... think the list is too vague, clarify it... etc etc... Erich 14:59, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)


I hadn't looked at that page since the definition was updated, so I wasn't familiar with this version. I suspect that some other people haven't read it either, because I believe quite a few users (including admins) think vandalism only covers defacing/blanking articles. That being said, I think this definition does correspond pretty well to what I suggested. Part of the problem is that admins really should describe the offense in a little more detail when they block people, instead of just blocking for "vandalism". Be more specific about what kind of vandalism and what the user is doing wrong, then people are less likely to challenge your interpretation. --Michael Snow 15:51, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Trolling

Before we come up with a policy about banning trolls, it seems like we should probably have a policy specifying that trolling is not allowed. Wikipedia:Trolling attempts to do this. Note that it does not empower sysops in any way to ban trolls, but rather creates a policy on trolling that could be, for instance, employed by the arbitration committee or shown to trolls. Should, after we create this policy, we want to create a policy allowing banning for trolling, that would be possible, but it is not a necessary extension of this proposal. Snowspinner 22:54, Jul 9, 2004 (UTC)

The trouble is, we talk as if "troll" and "trolling" were such clearly-defined terms that no-one could possibly be in any doubts about its meaning, when in fact it may mean all things to all people. One person may call another a troll because he doesn’t like the other person’s editing of his, the originator’s article. But surely a clear definition of what had been done to be "vandalism", if that is what it was in anyone's eyes, how many times it had been done, and how many times the "vandal" had been pulled up about it, would make it much clearer than merely hanging the epithet troll on them and calling their action trolling. I am sure an admin should be perfectly able to give an exact account of what the vandal has done? Dieter Simon 00:31, 10 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I think the policy I propose above addresses that to a large extent. Snowspinner 00:42, Jul 10, 2004 (UTC)
Hey Snowspinner, good to see I'm not the only one concerned about the absense of a definition. The problem I have with this entire thread is the word 'troll'. As others have said it:
  1. is perjorative, or negative
  2. instantly labels the individual, not the behaviour
  3. is possibly a personal attack, and not a good way to open any conversation
  4. poorly defined (or worse still, defined multiple ways!)
  5. dead end, what is the opposite of trolling? being nice? being constructive?
  6. is worn as a "badge of honor" (by a few disruptive losers)
Personally, I'd like to see more precise descriptions used that guide a user on what they should be doing, rather than just giving them a hat to wear! (now I'll toddle off and read your page!!) best wishes Erich 01:56, 10 Jul 2004 (UTC)

This is a major problem. There is no common definition. Almost everyone who uses it simply insists that 'they know it when they see it'. Any piece of policy that is as nebulous as this is bound to be a source of more tension. Mark Richards 00:50, 12 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Then pick one, or use a different word, like troublemaker (which I favor) or bad-faith contributor. Any term used, even if initially uncharged, will become pejorative, and creates the problems you list in points 1-3. There is no way around the need to MeatBall:NameTheConflict, so we're stuck.
I disagree UninvitedCompany. Describe the behaviour and how to fix it. There is no need to label the user. Erich 06:21, 12 Jul 2004 (UTC)
While there are many definitions of trolling, we can pick one, and use it. I think there is already a striking amount of agreement. I think someone has already defined trolling as behavior which cannot serve any purpose other than to provoke conflict. The opposite of a troll is a contributor. The fact that some consider it a badge of honor is their problem, not ours.
UninvitedCompany 01:39, 12 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Yes, but the trouble is that 'behavior which cannot serve any purpose other than to provoke conflict is not something you observe. Nobody knows all possible purposes of anything. What you do observe, alas, is "behaviour that elicits a conflict reaction in me". And the problem then is: "Who, actually, is the troll? She or me?". Human nature being what it is, very few very seldom ask themselves this question. So it happens that I am in perfectly good faith, and yet I classify somebody as a troll just because of my own irrational intolerance. The more I am emotionally committed to some ideology, the more frequent this is. Majority voting is no remedy. So, as far as I can see, there is no remedy at all. Just forget about trolls. Try sweet reason with all, and stick to your guns only with vadals. --Mario 21:53, 13 July 2005 (UTC)