Trolls, Flamers, Hooks And Shills

trolls, flamers, kooks and shills

What is a troll? What is a flamer? What is a kook? What is a shill? You'll find a detailed explanation of the various terms reading gandalf's trollfaq (always retrievable through "Archive-name: net-abuse-faq/troll-faq Posting-Frequency: monthly"). Also, in order to understand this lore, you better have already acquired an adequate knowledge of usenet.

As a matter of fact, on any virtual meeting point (usenet newsgroups, http:// messageboards, maillists) you may register "attacks" by individuals interested in disrupting the flow of messages.

There are MANY kinds of such individuals, see for instance the wondrous descriptions of usenet people at [Flame Warriors]

A troll is basically one who posts messages intended to insult and provoke per fas et nefas (see [Trolls and Schopenhauer] below).

For each person who responds, the poster (the troll as a person) will consider that person "caught". The troll (the troll as an action) is considered to have been a complete success if it disrupts beyond repair the normal traffic on a newsgroup or on a messageboard. In extreme cases, trolls are posted by groups of trollers and crossposted to unrelated newsgroups in an attempt to destroy those groups by flooding them with flames and off-topic ranting.


1.spamming troll, one who posts -or crossposts on many newsgroups- the same, exact post, multiple times (mostly one liners: "cascade"). Some of these 'listings' with all answers and counter-answers, can grow into huge files.

2. kook: a regular poster who continually posts messages with no apparent grounding in reality. The kook trademark is paranoia and grandiosity. Kooks will often build up elaborate imaginary support structures, fake corporations and the like, and continue to act as if those things are real even after their falsity has been documented in public. While they may appear harmless, and are usually filtered out by the other regular participants in a newsgroup or mailing list, they can still cause problems because the necessity for these measures is not immediately apparent to newcomers; there are several instances, for example, of journalists writing stories with quotes from kooks who caught them unaware. See for more info.

Some people have dedicated their lifes to expose kooks, and they will warn you that 'It is important to note the subtle distinction between a net.kook, a net.cretin, a clueless newbie, troll, or garden-variety @$$hole. The newbie, one hopes, can acquire a clue on the installment plan even if he can't afford to buy one for cash; the cretin is merely stupid and/or irritating; the troll is purposely pulling your leg like it got caught in some heavy machinery, the @$$hole is, well, simply that. But a TRUE net.kook has a special fascination derived from his/her/its utter ineffability. Their behavior is irrational, if not downright weird, but they are seldom merely boring'

A very interesting Kookologists' Manifesto is "The way of the Kook", this makes very good reading and it is much more informative as it may seem at first.

3. A flamer is one who contributes nothing but uninformative "ad hominem" bickering. His inventivity in names-calling and "hurting tooth poking" fears no matches. Even a good troll will never win against a good flamer. Yet flaming is an art that many, many, try, few master, and nearly all think -wrongly- they are good at. So since you (reader) are most probably not a good flamer, heed the (sound) advice: never answer to a troll (not even in order to flame him, see below).

4. A shill is one who posts messages as a spokesperson or "front" for an unseen group or organization, usually at odds to the topics being discussed.

The shills have joined trolls as parasitical newsgroup fauna, destroying the balance of free discussion, degrading the level of information, feeding like preditors on newsgroup populations that contain the resource that they seek to convert to money.

Remember, shills are creatures of darkness, and their enemy is the light. Shills can only succeed as far as they fool people, a shill is by definition an agent of deception, similar to a con artist, but acting on a target market instead of individuals. Shills always act on profit, and the motive, opportunity, and promise of profit, which in direct proportion to the degree of such, will spawn shills as surely as rotten meat spawns magots.

Awareness of shills is a first defense against shills. Shills unmasked are no longer shills, no longer effective.

As you'll see in the following, searchers can use trolls in order to gather information, trolls attacks are often organized (in "waves"), trolls coordinate on usenet groups, trolls can teach us powerful rhetorical tricks and there are some weapons that you can use to nuke them (apart from killfiles plonking on usenet). Moreover stalking and luring techniques can and will be very useful when seekers have to deal with trolls (or punish them).

But, first, learn that you can troll yourself, in order to gather specific knowledge or information...




Trolling for information

System administrators answering a troll

Well... soon or later I would have had to teach you how to fish info through clever placed trolls anyway, so learn it right now... (I'm just speaking for those among you that did not know this trick already, of course :-) ...Unix-related trolls (or Linux ones) on usenet can fetch a huge amount of interesting info, if cleverly placed.



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7 Responses Apr 17, 2010

lol i love this one. so true for soo many years. i have been in way too many forums and webpages etc. i just plain can not stand trolls,flamers, etc. no one ever actually layed it out like this, now maybe the people doing it can realize what they are and stop :) thx musicmouse, keep it comming!

Really helpful post MusicMouse...disturbing and informative. for all of us to know what we're dealing with. Thanks.

I'm bookmarkin this stuff. What a worthwhile read. Nice piece.

Fabulous . . . like a medieval bestiary . . . great reading.

Wow, what a post! It kind of reads like a Stephen King novel...scary.

Thanks for sharing all this important informations Sweethart, I haven't been able to be online much lately so I appreciate all this work & research your doing for all of us!! : ) *hugs*

Wow thanks for sharing I'm surprised after reading this I may have to be careful from now on