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Shouting LOL in a crowded theatre: trolling, griefing and Web 2.0 dickery
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Shouting LOL in a crowded theatre: trolling, griefing and Web 2.0 dickery


A journey through a history of trolling, griefing before moving onto: why do people do it? Does it really matter? And what challenges does Web 2.0 bring to the mix?

A journey through a history of trolling, griefing before moving onto: why do people do it? Does it really matter? And what challenges does Web 2.0 bring to the mix?

Published in Technology , News & Politics
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  • 1. Shouting ‘LOL’ in a crowded theatre Trolling, griefing and Web 2.0 dickery Chris Applegate, SocialMediaCamp London 2009
  • 2. About me Chris Applegate @qwghlm I work for We Are Social, but please don’t tell them about this
  • 3. (A quick warning) This talk contains strong language, graphic simulacra of internet shock sites and absolutely no pictures of kittens.
  • 4. On the plus side… I’m not going to bang on about Twitter, monetisation or PR (PS I lied about the kittens)
  • 5. Troll n. /trəʊl/
    • “ Someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response .”
    • Wikipedia
  • 6. Many types… Vulgarians Walter Mitty Contrarians Agents provocateurs Sockpuppets Drama queens
  • 7. Since when? Trolling pre-dates the world wide web (Can you imagine such a thing?) The term has existed since the early 1990s And the behaviour long before it
  • 8. A classic example “ Their attack started by first flooding the newsgroup with anti-BCU messages in such an aggressive way that made any kind of discussion impossible. Then they started with personal attacks on everyone who supported the BCU […] Finally they invaded threads that had no relevance to the BCU, and they further disrupted the newsgroup by trying to dictate rules about what was and wasn't on-topic”
  • 9. Canoes, FFS
  • 10. B-b-b-b-but why? What drives people to cause trouble like this? Is it because deep down, a lot of people are utter bastards? Or does the Internet have some magic way of transforming otherwise normal people into arseholes?
  • 11. One explanation © Penny Arcade, 2004
  • 12. But it’s a bit more complicated than that… The best trolling isn’t just rude words It’s a lot more subtle than that There are many ways to rile people So trolls come in many shapes and sizes Each side adopts tactics, making it a kind of game
  • 13. Identity crisis? “ Trolling is a game about identity deception, albeit one that is played without the consent of most of the players.“ (Donath 1999) Pushing and exploring the barriers of one’s identity, the Internet allows us to explore new identities with varying degrees of fuckwaddery
  • 14. Don’t forget the medium The Internet allows us unparalleled access to information, and to spread it quickly Even when that information is a picture of a man wearing nothing but a wedding band expanding his… um…
  • 15. hello.jpg (I think you know what I’m talking about)
  • 16. Hit & Run Freedom to explore social boundaries Free access to information Means and ability to assume multiple identities and behaviours and instantly switch between them at once But it’s up to us to decide what to do with them
  • 17. But why does this matter? This is just online! A few freaks here or there on some board doesn’t really matter, does it? We have moderators, filter technology, mindbleach (TBC) It’s just another annoyance like spam, right?
  • 18. Trolling 2.0 It’s not as simple as it once was One or two anons on a BBS can’t do much But things are a lot more sophisticated these days…
  • 19. What happens when you give them all this?
  • 20. Oh Christ. 4chan Where overgrown teenagers come to share their frustration, deviance and brilliance They even have a wiki!
  • 21. OK, they can be funny some of the time This guy owes them a bunch of hugs
  • 22. The sad case of Mitchell Henderson Teenage suicide victim 4chan found his memorial MySpace and references to his lost iPod hilarious Cue hacks, video remixes, prank phone calls… and a visit to his grave :(
  • 23. ‘ Virtual’ and ‘real’ are now meaningless Our ‘real’ & ‘virtual’ lives now intertwine Pushing social boundaries in cyberspace has social effects in meatspace too Web 2.0 allows these efforts to be distributed and collectivised
  • 24. To sum up… Trolling isn’t just an internet problem any more, it’s an everything problem The tools we use to do cool or fun stuff with are morality-agnostic Troll-proofing should be as important as anti-spam or security (But let’s not get obsessed about it!)
  • 25. Thank you! Chris Applegate @qwghlm