[Home]CategoryDifficultPerson

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Click on the title to see a list of types of difficult people that we have identified as threats to an OnlineCommunity.

There is no such thing.

"We can debug relationships, but it's always good policy to consider the people themselves to be features. People get annoyed when you try to debug them." --Larry Wall, [second State of the Onion speech]

Maybe it'd be better if we didn't treat problematic people as problems, but instead treated them like people.

However, AttentionSeekers demand to be solved. Being the problem lays claim to attention. They don't want to "be people" but rather want to be admired. Failing that, they want to be important. Failing either of those, they want to be (at least) the object of attention.


That must be the idea of the pages? A few stereotypes in which we can recognise our own failings saves things getting worse and direct accusation later... or am I stating the obvious? -- AndrewCates

Most people already have it in their head that such and such annoying person is just a type X. So, start with a description of stereotype X. Then introduce a deeper explanation of what might motivate that behaviour. Then remind people that even though these types of people are annoying you, there are appropriate and inappropriate ways of responding. The PrincipleOfConstantRespect and the need to foster PersonalRelationships behind the critical ones.

Also there are certain types of people that are beyond the normal range of expected behaviour. There may be no way of including them in a normal direct way, but perhaps we can look at these edge cases to improve our sense of indirect involvement. After all, we tolerate a number of people in our societies that may not integrate very well, but society keeps moving forward. There is no reason our OnlineCommunity cannot do the same. -- SunirShah


We have a phenomenon and we need a name. We had the name troll and agreed that it was a bad choice, for it stirred emotions and was used to label people. So the term difficult person was born, in an attempt - maybe even some kind of political correctness - to improve the situation. It's the same as going from cripple to physically disabled person.

Some people think that this is not enough. Ok, come up with a better term, we can adapt our language, no problem.

Some people think that the problem is in the relationships and has nothing to do with specific people. That might be true but it's improbable because one can often observe people repeating their flawed interactions in various contexts.

Some people think that the problem doesn't exist. That has two answers. (1) That may be true. If you don't care what happens in an online-community the problem disappears. (2) You lack experience. If you meet your first someone that seemingly ignores any obvious norm and reasonable argument and drives you into despair and your community into conflict and stagnation then you will know better.

I think the problem of most difficult persons is a form of extreme constructivism they stick to. They build reality from their perception, their fantasies and their wishful thinking. They never doubt to be right, if you oppose you beome a demon, if a group opposes the group becomes a mobbing clique or gang. Reality is what they want to see and the world and other people exist to serve their purpose. That's pretty hard to cope with. Of course there are other people who do real old-fashioned trolling out of arrogance and to have fun as an intellectual game - but that is really rare nowadays. -- HelmutLeitner

In terms of language I think it might be easier (and more sympathetic) to express this in narrativist terms. We each perceive ourselves as the main player in a story which is unwinding. We each interpret things to fit with our own notions of the way the world is. Great religious books are often written in stories because that it the common currency of self-perception. Very few people act in a way which forces them to acknowledge to themselves that they are bad. Disharmony often stems from a widening gulf between the stories. Who is to say which story is further from reality, ours or theirs? So what can we learn from this? That we need to challenge our own stories to see if other interpretations are possible: how much did the vandal understand of what he broke? I'd refer you to another chapter of my book but I have already pushed it :o) and anyway there is only a general review of narrativism, truth, people and meaning... -- AndrewCates

Doesn't it seem inevitable (sadly) that wikis are inherently vulnerable to such threats as trolling and WikiSpam, because of open editing? This is most likely in subject areas which excite a PointOfView, such as politics. I am thinking particularly of recent developments at [Consumerpedia] and [Consumerium], where one initiative appears to be dead and the other a troll haven. Both grew out of dissatisfaction with the antifactionalism of WikiPedia. So I am working on a combination of wiki and TrustMetric that could allow a deliberately factional, yet stable, community to attempt discussion of conntroversial topics. -- FrankPennycook

Our cities are open as well. It's a question of how to maintain order with the least expenditure of energy and with the least complications that can be exploited against you (say through gaming). -- SunirShah


We have a phenomenon and we need a name. We had the name troll and agreed that it was a bad choice, for it stirred emotions and was used to label people. So the term difficult person was born, in an attempt - maybe even some kind of political correctness - to improve the situation. It's the same as going from cripple to physically disabled person.

A physically disabled person cannot change that condition, whereas a difficult person could change their behavior (assuming that people can in fact change). We therefore could maybe better use CategoryDifficultBehavior which then points to the archetypes which display that behavior.

The problem is: some people can't or don't change their behaviour. Those that can or do will adapt and find a way to cooperate anyway. There are cases that take some time, but there are also cases that can't be resolved. This may have physiological reasons. People combine different types of behaviour into certain roles. These might be separated, but it should be done because it helps understanding, not because of some feeling of political correctness.

Fair enough, but we should be aware of the fact that some (most likely difficult people) may take objection to this label. (See AntiAuthoritarian by silly rules).



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