A couple weeks ago I posted a blog entry that I had mentally labeled "the lead balloon experiment" even before I finished. In that entry, I asked the question, "Should consistent inflammatory remarks be ignored or is it important to address the remarks to present the other side of the issue and attempt to debate the underlying issues?" I got some great feedback and wanted to roll it up here.
First, the blog entry was a social experiment of sorts. There were several questions that I had before writing it and was curious what other people thought. Of course, my hope was to get a different perspective. As noted above, I knew the experiment might "go over like a lead balloon" since the word "troll" is highly subjective and inflammatory itself. Trust me the hypocrisy built into that blog entry was not lost on me. But I decided the risk was worth it and I'm glad I did because I learned some interesting things.
So, what did I learn (note: I'll only quote the publicly posted comments):
1. "I think it is good that you are engaging the community to find out whether more people feel that way; this is the beauty of blogging." - A very large part of the experiment was to see if I was alone in thinking the majority of the blog entries were inflammatory. Not one of the comments I received argued that I was misinterpreting the tone and should reset my expectations for civil conversation. Had the comments gone the other way, I would have posted a public apology and spent a lot of time reapplying the Teflon.
2. "My suggestion is to stick with objective facts and quit the discussion once it has deviated from that." - A number of people suggested addressing the core issue while ignoring the inflammatory remarks. This is definitely the "high road" and very possibly the right thing to do. The major issue with this tactic is that you are now, at least at some level, condoning the inflammatory remarks. Personally, I have a hard time rewarding such behavior at any level.
3. "If you blog more 'constructive content', then the trolls won't survive very long because the community will know what they say is '****hit'." - The suggestion that I just "blog more" in attempt to get my actual beliefs out there is great. Of course, that suggestion also noted that more time spent fixing bugs in WiX would be great too. <grin/> While I really do like this suggestion the balance of coding vs. blogging vs. living will continue to be challenge.
4. "FanBoy's aren't much better." - I hadn't thought about this since don't think we have any "fanboys" for the WiX toolset (seriously, does anyone love installation technologies that much?). However, I would agree with the sentiment. Don't feed the fanboys. <smile/>
5. "Remember back in the old days you'd go out on the playground and beat each other up and then become best friends?" - The more I thought about it the playground analogy seemed amazingly fitting. For everyone not involved, I can understand this whole public admonishment to be rather immature. However, I learned a very long time ago that sometimes you have to stand up for yourself. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but that doesn't mean they are entitled to attack you or your friends personally, especially in public.
I am ignoring trolls in an all out passive aggressive fashion. <smile/> I long ago stopped reading blogs from them but I have now updated my Inbox rules to better filter out email from them and I am investigating ways to not have them show up in my search queries (unfortunately, not sure Technorati completely supports this). That does mean I will run the risk of not addressing incorrect information being spread by them. So, if you ever want my perspective on a particular topic or have a question about my actual beliefs just drop me a comment or note here. I'll try to address them directly.
This stance might seem extreme to some or immature to others. I'll leave that decision up to you but let me leave you with two things:
1. In college I took a class where the only thing the professor said on most days was, "Remember, you can never take power. You can only give it away. Now discuss how power affects you in the here and now." It was a fascinating class and an incredible experience. One of the things it taught me was that you control how much "energy" you give another person. In this case, I've decided to no longer give any more energy (usually in the form of personal frustration) to individuals that exhibit, for lack of better term, troll-like behavior.
2. When the most important person in your life suggests that maybe it just isn't worth it, you listen. In this case, my wife has watched me struggle with how to interact with troll-like behavior for years. My desire to address the underlying issues without feeding the personal attacks routinely leaves me frustrated. With this latest individual, Jenny firmly suggested that it just isn't worth it. This time, I'm listening. <smile/>
Finally, I want to point out that my Inbox rules will not filter out email sent directly and only To: me. I definitely want to leave a channel open to discuss and/or reconcile previous injuries (on both sides) if the individuals want to talk. My opinions do change and I will happily admit when I am wrong when challenged with objective data and no personal attacks.