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Trolling has many definitions.

There are, accordingly, various schools of thought which define trolling in various ways and think it's good for various reasons. (only one is explored here)

Note that in most cases, it's impossible to tell if any of these schools of thought are serious, or just a joke.

Consumerium school of thought

The http://develop.consumerium.org wiki contains an interesting and peculiar philosophy of trolling.

Definition of trolling

Trolling is defined [there] along the lines of "...a term of abuse that is levelled both at genuinely problematic users and users with contentious but potentially legitimate views."

"A wiki is by contrast troll-hostile and ruled by a GodKing if "deliberately disrupting work... in order to foster change, etc." can be unilaterally labelled as "problematic trolling" by one person or a small group, e.g. Jim Wales" (from [here])

"In general internet terms, trolling can be described as making an undefended and polarised statement, to stimulate a large and reactive response. However, what constitutes "undefended" is usually entirely up to the observer (see spun threat for a way in which this can be made obvious to third party observers)." (from [here])

However, the entire [Consumerium project] is [seen] as one big "troll" against powerful corporations, governments, etc: "...culture of trolling (of which Consumerium is necessarily a part, since it always will be perceived as "trolling perfect corporations with bad untrue things" until of course the corporation must admit that all the "trolling" is true..."


"One view of "real trolls" is that they are those who wilfully agree with Foucault and so reject both authorship and the association of authorship with fiction. To trolls, there is no such thing as an individual "troll", so the use of the term in the singular is confined to sysops." (from [here]).

Relationship to other definitions of trolling

The Consumerium school's definition of trolls is notably lacking an aspect of "lying to and messing with people for a joke at their expense". Compare to other sources:

"Trolls are for fun. The object of recreational trolling is to sit back and laugh at all those gullible idiots that will believe *anything*." (from [here])

"Trolling is a game about identity deception, albeit one that is played without the consent of most of the players. The troll attempts to pass as a legitimate participant, sharing the group's common interests and concerns; the newsgroups members, if they are cognizant of trolls and other identity deceptions, attempt to both distinguish real from trolling postings and, upon judging a poster a troll, make the offending poster leave the group." (Donath, 1999, p. 45)

Of course, maybe "the Consumerium school of pro-troll philosophy" is just one big joke at the expense of anyone who believes that it exists. There's certainly some evidence that some troll(s) on Consumerium feel this way (see [bottom of this page]).

Relationship to SoftSecurity

The Consumerium school shares with the SoftSecurity school a distaste of HardSecurity. Similar to the view of hardcore proponents of SoftSecurity, use of HardSecurity is permitted when all other avenues are exhausted, but this is considered a semi-shameful failure on part of the person forced to wield it. [On this page] may be found a joking prescription for an apology if you have to use HardSecurity.

The Consumerium school may be said to think along the same lines as the SoftSecurity school of thought, but to also think that SoftSecurity doesn't go far enough. SoftSecurity (at least, on MeatballWiki) feels that HardSecurity (TechnologySolutions) should be replaced with CommunitySolutions. SoftSecurity advocates that a CommunitySolution include ConflictResolution when possible, but resorts to social pressure and specifically to the community "closing ranks" against an offender when the conflict cannot be resolved. By contrast, the Consumerium school [feels that] social pressure and "closing ranks" is also abusive and should also be avoided.


The underlying assumption behind this villification of people who most consider "community leaders" is that there is no way to objectively determine whether the target individual is actually harmful.

The Consumerium philosophy attempts to limit the power of these sorts of subjective value judgements. The only thing that is "real" is power. The Consumerium school assumes that the world will always be mostly divided into various factions, who are willing to do sneaky things (for example, to violate FairProcess to kick out someone they consider "obviously harmful") to win.

The Consumerium prescription is not, however, to AssumeGoodFaith all the time, no matter what. They don't think that individuals should always be nice to others whom they consider offenders (see, for example, the way that they treat "sysops" such as Jimbo Wales of WikiPedia). Rather, the prescription is that checks in the underlying social system prevent the community from considering any individual as "offender" in an objective sense. This is to serve as a check against GroupThink.

For a specific proposal as to these sorts of checks, see [Consumerium:SysopPowerStructure]

Due process
In general, there is a strong emphasis on DueProcess? as a check against abuse of power:

"A wiki is troll-friendly when a friendly troll gets due process, and consideration of his "fiction" as a peer to other fiction, without regard to reputation. That is usually all they want. " (from [here]).

Contrast with SoftSecurity

So, the underlying assumption of the Consumerium school is that power is the only reality and people won't play fair when they deeply disagree. Their philosophy allows individuals to be nasty to each other (because there cannot exist any neutral arbiter who could stop them), but attempts to prevent "the community" from taking sides (because this might lead to GroupThink).

The underlying assumption of SoftSecurity is AssumeGoodFaith, i.e that most individuals, if given a chance, will be fair even to others with whom they disagree. Under SoftSecurity, individuals are supposed to be nice (& even polite) to others. Even if the community decides to reject an individual, individuals are supposed to be polite while carrying this out. But SoftSecurity gives "the collective" a blank check to consider some things, and some people, as beneficial and others as harmful.

Another difference between the two philosophies is their attitude towards disruption. Consider an individual who 'deliberately disrupts work... in order to foster change, etc.'

SoftSecurity would say that the individual is working against the interests of the community, and that the community should protect itself. The Consumerium school says that disruption is sometimes necessary, and therefore almost all disruption be tolerated (since no one is in a position to say which disruption is good and which is bad).

Positive reputation is considered evil

In almost direct opposition to CommunityWiki's dominant philosophy, the Consumerium pro-troll philosophy [holds that] a system where individuals can acquire positive reputation is a bad idea and leads to power and hence to abuses of power. Incredibly (perhaps as a joke?) some within the Consumerium school apparently [believe] that reputation is useful, but only negative reputation, i.e. the best situation is where individuals can have bad reputations, but no one can ever have a good reputation.

One approach according to these lines [seen on Consumerium] is: "any conflicts between users necessarily lowers the repute of all involved - thus whoever is involved in all disputes by default is "Lowest", and there is no assumption of any positive repute at all." This explains their name of [LowestTroll] for one kind of what we might call a "community leader"; someone who takes the time to make peace in the community, and, when necessary, defend against trolls.

How the host should behave

The Consumerium school has a particularly bad view of "sysops", what we would call "hosts". A bad sysop is what we would call a GodKing.

In SoftSecurity, a arrogant host may be considered a GodKing, but for the most part only the use of HardSecurity is thought to be a sin. By contrast, the Consumerium school faults any community leader for any abusive use of their positive reputation in the community. "Abusive," though, is defined quite broadly, and encompasses any effort to rally the community against perceived harmful individuals or points of view.

By contrast, the [LowestTroll] is the Consumerium model for good leadership. The [LowestTroll] actively fights GroupThink by favoring outsiders instead of reputable community members:

"The Lowest Troll is whatever troll consistently favours the New Troll over the most trusted longstanding user. Empowering this troll is the only way to prevent an insider culture from eventually destroying a large public wiki, as..." (from [here])

Token Foucault reference

As expected for a postmodernish philosophy, the philosophy of Foucault makes a [confusing cameo]:

"The author does not precede the works; he is a certain functional principle by which, in our culture, one limits, excludes, chooses and impedes the free circulation of fiction." - Michel Foucault

Further reading

CategoryManagement CategorySoftSecurity CategoryTrolling

This is copied from CommunityWiki:TrollingIsGood (Bayle's, public domain), btw.


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