The word troll is applied to many diverse heretics, dissidents, and other disagreers in various contexts. They seem to reject joining social clubs and accepting group-defined concepts of politeness. It isn't clearly why, but, trolls sometimes say they are engaged in a battle of "empathy" *against* "eloquence" - the latter being an attribute of liars, frauds, con men, cheaters, politicians, and artificial intelligence.
The role of trolls in Consumerium is unclear. There is not even an agreement on what is a troll and what they generally do. What is clear is that some think it is insulting to call someone a troll, and others take pride in being trolls, or called trolls. If you read "Trolls believe..." or "Trolls request..." or other use of "trolls" as a pronoun, that is a sure sign you are dealing with someone who self-identifies with trolls. Such people can be assumed to share IP numbers to get around blocks, to freely offer passwords to each other, quote each others texts without any attribution, and to foment ambiguity in ways that make it simply impossible to tell "who wrote what", at least beyond a reasonable doubt. They can also be assumed to be a single person who is simply too cowardly to take responsibility for anything he says; see the pre-censorship version of Craig Hubley for one such assumption, probably by a bunch of corrupt Wikimedian sysop-vandals.
Because they discount identity but usually claim to represent or protect some body, trolls will usually cluster around something they wish to protect. Often this is something of symbolic importance such as ape mothers or the root of their culture, the world tree. Those who disrespect such basic elements of troll culture can expect to be driven off by trolls. It is sometimes the case that the roots of empathy, which trolls confuse with the roots of the world tree perhaps, can be reached by some process of mutual gnawing. Rather than patronize a "village pump", since they reject "community" metaphors, one is more likely to find trolls doing a Consumerium:trollgnaw.
Regarding the impact of such collective anonymous trolling, there is just no agreement at all. What one thinks tends to depend on what one feels about:
- free circulation of fiction
- identifying people - a sysop usually tries to identify a troll, by outing, but trolls usually insists on staying anonymous or ambiguous, and may foment ambiguity
- free speech - which trolls usually support
- reputation - trolls usually think reputation leads to stupidity, or that reputation is evidence of stupidity, or that reputation *is* stupidity or the universal excuse for it
- authority - which trolls don't like
- libel - which some trolls do, and others try to avoid being done to them, by staying trolls and not letting libellers know their names or where they are.
Trolls are the most challenging faction because they are typically diverse, and very often refuse to accept the community point of view as a neutral point of view, or accept any pigeonholing or labelling of their views by others.
Usually the label troll simply indicates that someone considers them pests or usurpers. They do not usually fit clearly as part of any clique or group of "friends" or "enemies", but often just deny any goal but truth. They are a faction by default, only because they do not clearly identify with any other faction or accept any other guidance.
However, for precisely these reasons, they are the most useful in discovering the limitations of existing terminology, categories, and assumptions, especially those related to the sysop power structure that labels them. A troll-friendly large public wiki can expect some problems and challenges and drop-outs from people who can't develop the political virtues quickly enough. However it presumably gains and exploits those who are marginalized or abused elsewhere, which suits the progressive values of Consumerium:itself.
The Wikipedia article on Internet trolls seems to say "a troll is a pest" and assumes psychiatry applies (that the sysop can tell what the motivation of the troll is, amazingly). However, the troll (Meta-Wikipedia) article seems to say that trolls serve an important audit role, by driving bad contributors out of a project, or harassing stupid ideas to death, or just generally knowing how a project can evolve to work better. There is more on this in Talk:urban ecology.
What should trolls do and not do on Consumerium? How does one recognize but not be too trusting of a friendly troll? Enter your beliefs here:
- Trolls wish to remain anonymous and thus hard to communicate with in a reliable manner ie. email or IM such as IRC or jabber.org
- Defense: The anonymity allows them greater freedom of expression. Trolls may also do intricate politics if they play a double role that they have an user account that is kept distinct from, unassociated with, trollish edits.
- Trolls encourage factions to form, and will usually respond to comments directed towards a faction, rather than towards them personally - though it's hard to know who is responding, that's what they don't want to focus on.
- Trolls sometimes apply grammar so ambiguous that it is indecypherable what is actually being said - troll poetry for instance is a deliberate attempt to break up and apply cognitive dissonance to some terms, such as claiming to be "a propriate" as a response to someone else thinking they are inappropriate. Trolls literally enforce General Semantics sometimes.
- Defense: This makes the Lowest Troll or some other user think very hard before having a crack at making the article sensible to the layperson - if you really don't understand it, you probably won't bother, and that's the point too
- Trolls sometimes seem to have typos on articles that contain very inflammatory material - some will claim that a vast change is a minor edit.
- Rationale: Correcting the typo by some other user also implicates that they have read through the material and silently approval it's contents if no major editing occours.
- Deliberate inclusion of typos or attempts to do crazymaking are reactive trolling tactics that simply don't happen on troll-friendly large public wikis where no sysop vandalism is allowed.