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Jan 4, 2009 06:13 PM

Feeding The Trolls

A suggestion to fellow 'hounds who value these forums and take food and drink at least somewhat seriously, and to all 'hounds who value this as a welcoming and friendly place to hang out:

Please don't feed the trolls. I know they are aggravating, and like you, my inclination is to want to slap them down hard, but that just eggs them on. The result is that threads get hijacked by the trolls and those who have taken the trolls' bait, and what might be a useful, or enjoyable discussion is in shambles.

I really want my experience here to be enjoyable and maybe even to learn a thing or two, but that is made all the more difficult when what might be an interesting or useful thread has been hijacked by a troll, and 'hounds pile on. If I suspect a poster is trolling I immediately hit the Report link at the bottom of the post, and let the Chowhound staff deal with the troll, much as I'd feel good hurling a smart or chastising reply.

Let's all work together on making this an unwelcome venue for trolls, by ignoring them on the boards, and reporting them to the moderators.

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  1. I'm going to show my ignorance and ask: What's a troll???

    27 Replies
      1. re: Seth Chadwick

        Thank you. (PS: I love the expression!) And I agree. I think what helps here is to check someone's profile. First time posters, I guess, are particularly suspect? Yes?

        1. re: c oliver

          We really discourage an "us vs. them" mentality when it comes to newcomers. We were all newcomers at one point. Please think about how long you'd have stuck around if people started suggesting you were trolling or shilling soon after you started posting.

          99.9% of the people who use our site are friendly, helpful, chow-oriented posters. .1% aren't. Please treat everyone like they're in the 99.9% and use the Report link to let us know about people you think are in that .1%.

          1. re: The Chowhound Team

            Excellent point. I just looked back to my first post from 9/07. Totally sincere and I got good advice.

            1. re: The Chowhound Team

              I wonder if it would serve any purpose to post something on every one of the boards about this "issue." I've only been on CH for a year and never knew about "trolls" (I'm OLD, ya know?) I bet there are others. Like alanbarnes said, we can all be a tad provocative at times but that's not our goal.

              1. re: c oliver

                Trolling, in most of its forms, seem to be seldom seen on CH. Obviously, it does happen, but compared to many other boards, that I frequent, not that often. Now, maybe some are just better at it, and much more sublte, than others, but CH *seems* to be pretty much a "Troll-free Zone," though not always.


            2. re: c oliver

              I would definitely say no. Everyone is a first timer once. I have gotten great info from first timers. One's posting history has no direct bearing on the validity of their responses.

              I think that where the profile helps is when you find are looking for recommendations on a restaurant, for example, and one poster just pans the heck out of it, when other posters have positive responses. It could well be a case of this poster having hit them on a really bad night, but it could be "something else." I've pulled up profiles to find that a particular person ONLY has bad experiences, or that is what their posts indicate. No one ALWAYS has bad experiences.

              On another travel/food board, I was looking into a particular restaurant. I read a half-dozen very good reviews, then saw one that was a major exception. This post indicated that everything was wrong with this restaurant - the food, the service, the setting - everything. It was so out of character, based on the other reviews, that it really caught my attention. Pulled the profile and did a bit of searching. This person had posted the same review to many other boards. Worse, they had posted similar (often using the same exact descriptions - can you say Copy/Paste?) about other restaurants on other boards. All of these were high-end restaurants and all were horribly panned by this one person - often using the same phrases for each. Lessson learned, know your sources and trust the good ones, even if their experiences do differ from your own. A profile can help you to "know your sources."


            1. re: hannaone

              Yes, I have to admit that I've consulted that website when I sometimes encounter an annoying post to diffuse my frustration. I say post and not poster because there are troll-like posts among regular users (which generally ends up getting deleted due to the mods).

              ChinoWayne is correct -- just ignore it and it will go away. It's tempting to jump in and fight, but that's what they want. No need to give them ammunition.

            2. re: c oliver

              A troll is a prankster or malicious person
              who makes insincere comments
              purely for the purpose of drawing
              an angry reaction. For instance, someone
              who says, "Julia Child was an
              alcoholic and total
              fraud who spent four years in prison
              for embezzlement."

              But on the CH boards I read, I can't
              recall a one. I'm sure the moderators
              erase them quite quickly. However, just
              straying off-topic on a thread
              or disagreeing with someone doesn't make
              a poster a troll.

              1. re: mpalmer6c

                Re: "But on the CH boards I read, I can't recall a one. I'm sure the moderators erase them quite quickly."

                Not necessarily. 914NYC has been trolling the Wine board with varying degrees of success for months:


                But people seem to be catching on. So this evening a post appeared by another user whose writing style was, um, strikingly similar to 914NYC's. The mods apparently caught the doppelganger and the thread was deleted in short order.

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  I actually replied to one of 914's right before it got deleted. So is there a list of screen names to be aware of? Official or not? I'm sure the mods can't let that out but it would be nice. I'm such a newbie.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Alan, you can help. Hit the "report" link beneath a trollish posting. The mods can't always keep up with the torrent, so they count on "heads up" from hounds. Just takes a sec.

                    c, per the top posting in this discussion, just try not to respond to "flame bait". I know it's a pain to be deleted....I've been deleted myself a number of times (fyi I'm Chowhound's co-founder).

                    1. re: Jim Leff

                      I've reported the guy, but the threads remain. To the mods' credit, the trolls are pretty subtle. There's just enough false sincerity that any given post might be real. But when you look at all of his posts as a whole, it's clear that he's just having everybody on with his inflammatory BS.

                      It's an inherent problem with a well-moderated forum populated by good-natured people. Because the site is well-moderated, folks are less suspicious that any given post is a troll. And because there are a lot of regulars who are good-natured, they'll take the time to try to enlighten someone who's obviously clueless but claims to be interested in learning.

                      All in all, trolling is far less of a problem on Chowhound than on any other public board I frequent. One board got so bad that it became largely unusable. A few members started a parallel board that was by invitation only, but such dramatic limits on participation really detract from the whole experience.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        In the "good news" column, though, I read through some of the links you posted above about the suspected troll on the Wine board and I actually learned some interesting things from the good-natured folks who were trying to share some knowledge and tips. So, despite the potential troll being an annoyance, it didn't result in a 100% bad situation.

                        Not that I'm arguing against deleting obvious trolls or shills, mind you.

                        1. re: ccbweb

                          For what it's worth, I also learned quite a bit from the wine posters in that thread, and was hesitant to report it for that reason. There's some good CH insight into wine that I enjoyed immensely. Shame it had to be such a waste.

                          1. re: corgette

                            That's probably why the moderators didn't delete. Hey, if someone's agenda of vandalism involves eliciting interesting and useful information, then bring on the trolls! :)

                            1. re: Jim Leff

                              I was actually worried that the post would be deleted, as there was so much useful information presented.

                              I could use less of the caps and insults, however, but such is the nature of the troll.

                            2. re: corgette


                              It is not a "waste," if you, or anybody else found good, useful info from it. The original intent might have been otherwise, but the posts did provide a topic for much good discussion. That was my enlightenment, from Ccbweb's reply above. I had never considered that aspect - DUH!


                            3. re: ccbweb

                              That is a very valid point. It is also quite interesting and not something that I had really taken into account. You are correct in that there's some good info contained in those threads. Makes the slope rather slippery for the MOD's. Regardless of the motives of the OP, there WAS good discussion, that could well help others.

                              At the worst, I'd possibly take a black marker to some of the OP's later comments, and leave the bulk of the replies. The OP would need to be left for context though, but these were always written in such a manner, that few were offensive (save one).

                              Great point,


                        2. re: c oliver

                          Do not be troubled. Many, many people replied too. Because the vast majority of CH subscribers are very sincere and are here to share, and then to learn, it's natural. Someone can't "get it," and others step up to try and suggest alternate methods (in this case, at least). It's hard to believe that one would post with nefarious motives, but it does happen. Just not THAT often here.

                          Usually, it's after a bunch of well-meaning hounds have rung-in, that the OP will start bringing in a bunch of nonsense, much of it in an attempt to inflame those very people, who have tried to help. The wine board has some people, who are intense in their love of wines. They can be easy marks for a good Troll, especially if the "setup" is done well. Next thing you know, you're partaking on the Troll's feeding frenzy and never saw it coming.

                          I'm not saying that 914NYC is such a Troll, but over time suspicions were raised. He/she was either the most deprived of humans, where their sense of smell and taste were so horribly compromised, or the most unfortunate with regards to their choices of wines. Who knows the truth?


                        3. re: alanbarnes

                          Ranters aren't trolls. I say give
                          them one rant and no more. Unless
                          you think a Mirassou wine fan is
                          a shill, I don't see the objection.

                          1. re: mpalmer6c

                            That post wasn't a rant, it was an (unsuccessful) attempt to get a rise from those who realize that Mirassou Pinot Noir is fairly uninteresting. A classic troll, but he got mostly positive feedback so the thread died quickly.

                            The (deleted) alter ego post of last night was a rant about how there's no such thing as fruity wine. Kind of at odds with the Mirassou post ("fruity as hell"), and further evidence that this guy's just trying to get a reaction.

                            1. re: alanbarnes

                              I posted a few suggestions to that persons earlier posts, as someone that is in the wine business I was really trying to help but everything I suggested was shot down or replied to with a really snarky response....finally gave up figuring he/she was just trying to stir some "stuff", stopped even opening the posts from 914NYC....stop feeding it and it will go away.

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                I just love the phrase "fruity as hell".

                                I mean, when I think of hell, I don't conjure up a Trixian potpourri of raspberry red, lemon yellow, and orange orange (the flavor palate would likely be more along the lines of my elementary school lunch room's pizza).

                            2. re: alanbarnes

                              Yes, I suspect so, as well. Made references to it, with out citations.

                              I broke a rule (CH MODs have to KEEP reminding me) and suggested such. Not a cool move for my part, but everyone kept trying to help out, only to be rebuffed by this poster. There was some obscure reason why they were lying, or crazy, or just fools.

                              And yes, Trolls usually have a dozen or so "fellow travelers," that they keep handy. These are often introduced as replies to the original threads. Sometimes it gets quite humorous, when the Troll gets the personas confused, and forgets who he/she is supposed to be at that moment.


                          2. re: c oliver

                            Here's another link, from a slightly earlier time, but still pretty much sums it up:


                          3. I appreciate all the food references:
                            'feed' the trolls
                            'eggs' them on
                            trolls' 'bait'
                            For some reason though, I resent the label "troll"...chowhound isn't exactly a controversial/ political/ earth shattering/life saving board--it is here for those of us who enjoy our food and drink, and want to share our knowledge and discoveries. Although I agree that "shills" are unwelcome on this board, what is the definition of a "troll" here on chowhound?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Marge

                              Marge, there's a type of nut who can be found in any online forum.....crazies who show up just to cause problems and get a rise out of people. Start flame wars. Etc. Not to discuss chow so much as to intentionally, gleefully piss people off.

                              Chowhound works because it's a friendly discussion, even if we disagree with each other's opinions. The tolerant, amiable atmosphere encourages people to toss in contrary opinions....really important if we're to keep the site useful (let alone honest!).

                              There are, obviously, places on the Internet where lots of flame wars reign supreme. Those aren't the places where you'll generally find lots of really good info. Flame wars occur because a certain type of person likes to provoke them. It's key not to take their bait. That's all!

                              1. re: Marge

                                "... chowhound isn't exactly a controversial/ political/ earth shattering/life saving board--it is here for those of us who enjoy our food and drink, and want to share our knowledge and discoveries" That is why there are few Trolls here, and most subscribers are easily blind-sided, when one shows up. Who can believe that people have totally different agendas, and motives, than the great majority here?

                                If the person mentioned IS/WAS a Troll, it was a while, before the Wine board members began really suspecting it. Oh, maybe there were some symptoms, but symptoms don't mean that a person is actually suffering from a disease. Though I have experienced Trolls from all the way back to AARPANET days, my jury is still out on this person. Oh, my suspicions are high, but in CH? Also, the first half-dozen posts did paint a picture of sincerity. Pretty well done. IIRC, the first posts were few and very far between. They did not accelerate until most recently. If we're correct, there was a lot of thought, or luck, that went into the production.


                              2. 914NYC's posts elicited (to me surprisingly) tolerant, patient, and thoughtful responses from the CH community. While 914NYC may be a bit at the edge of CH behavior, I don't think he/she needs to be branded a troll and banished. The best advice is to not feed the trolls, however.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  The trolls who are bad you only very rarely see here. LOTS of stuff that's bad you rarely see here. You can't conclude from that, though, that there's nothing bad coming in. There's lots bad in any online forum. Go surf an unmoderated discussion (e.g. on Usenet) and you'll quickly see what Raw looks like. It'll give you shivers, and you'll hastily return here, where it seems like, just by magic, everyone's helpful and friendly. :)

                                  To the poster further down, a "wild west" sort of forum inevitably comes to be dominated by the biggest guns in town, who band together in a posse and shoot down new faces they deem to encroach on their authority or fail to corroborate their opinions. Such a dynamic doesn't work real well when you're trying to build a data trove rather than a drama.

                                2. But I *LIKE* to feed the Trolls.

                                  I enjoyed 914NYC's posts - he sparked a few times, then finally got some meaningful response. He ended up doing a marvelous job of pointing out the dichotomy of thoughts here at CH. We have this whole side of chiding people for regarding food as a learning process - it's about deliciousness, and it's ok for anything to be delicious to anybody. But here comes this guy who tells you that Boone's Farm is as good (or as bad) to him as Chateau Latour, and the whole community wants to a) hang the bastard, and b) insist that he has a lot to learn.

                                  I love it. When are we going to tell all the chain lovers that they have a lot to learn?

                                  Seriously, when is a Troll a Troll? If there's good discussion - good information that follows a Troll (as Sam points out), then who cares what the intention was? I often challenge someone with the intent of promoting discussion - that's certainly trollish behavior. I want to get more information out there - on this site, for all to see and learn from.

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: applehome

                                    i was going to say the same thing. trolls are fun.

                                    and anything that pops some of the pretension bubbles that float around here sometimes is OK by me too. (even my own)

                                    but then - i like a more wild west sorta chat board in general, and chafe (see, an on topic cooking ref) at the amount of moderation here, sometimes.

                                    it's just words people, really.

                                    1. re: applehome

                                      Hey, there's nothing wrong with occasionally stirring up the $#!t. If there were, I'd probably be outta here. But posters who do nothing BUT post inflammatory comments have limited value to the community.

                                      I'm not arguing that 914NYC or anybody else should be banned. But those who refuse to play nice will eventually be unwelcome in the sandbox. Whether it's the mods or the other users who deliver the bad news to the offending party, the result will be the same.

                                      I assume that 914NYC has gotten the message, since s/he recently tried to post using an alternate identity. The fact that the post was promptly deleted leads me to believe that the mods have decided that enough is enough. But hey, it was fun while it lasted.

                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                        "Hey, there's nothing wrong with occasionally stirring up the $#!t."

                                        Chowhound has thousands upon thousands of users. If each occasionally stirs up the $#!t in one out of ten posts, we're absolutely sunk.

                                        We're here to pool chow tips. The idea is that when you or I need advice on eating well, we find a dense, concentrated trove of useful pragmatic info, rather than the debris and shrapnel of $#!t-stirring.

                                        The Internet is filled with drama, slams, and chitchat. Let's keep Chowhound a rare oasis where lots of people compile a super useful data trove for their mutual benefit. It's all-essential signal-to-noise ratio is way more delicate than you could imagine.

                                        1. re: Jim Leff

                                          Just out of curiosity, is this a result of a call-out to you because things are getting out of hand, or is that my paranoia showing? Just seems like we haven't heard from you in a while, and you're back in with the same tight SNR message from long ago. I mean - heck, I thought things were opening up nicely for a while here... Not that I'm complaining if that's your intent - a refocus isn't such a bad thing, but I'm curious to know what's behind it.

                                          1. re: applehome

                                            I've been posting all along (see my My Chow page). And the site's been moderated according to the same principles since about 1998 or so, and will continue to follow that proven formula. Nothing new/different going on. Though I guess I AM slightly miffed that no one seemed to like my yuppie-chicken-and-rice-recipe....which, in spite of its unexciting-seeming ingredients, is hyperdelicious. So maybe if I post a here a lot, people will be moved to pay more attention to the recipe, cook the damned chicken, and I'll finally get the cred I've long not deserved as a cooking authority, rather than just an eating authority. A hound can hope, no?

                                            1. re: Jim Leff

                                              Hilarious! Gimme that damn chicken recipe and I'll make it! Cheers.

                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                It's not hilarious, it's serious! When are you guys finally gonna take me seriously as a cook? Anyway, it's here (can't miss it, it's the one with zero responses):

                                          2. re: Jim Leff

                                            While I understand what you're saying and respect your take on things, Chowhound is more to me than just a place where people compile data. It's a community, and in any community there's bound to be some disagreement.

                                            Maybe I'm not communicating as well as I would like. When I talk about stirring things up, I'm not talking about disagreement for its own sake. That's just a waste of bandwidth. I'm talking about questioning the assumptions that another poster has made.

                                            You see this most often on the Not About Food board, but it crops up elsewhere as well. There are well-mannered and well-regarded members of the community who simply disagree on things (hence Sam's threats to live off what he finds in jfood's dumpster). So long as the discussion stays within the parameters that have been established by the powers that be and that are enforced by the mods, these spirited debates not only add to interest to the content of the site, but also improve the overall quality of the data.

                                            BTW: as soon as I track down Kajira rice and lemon soy sauce, the chicken challenge is on!!!

                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                              I certainly didn't mean to give the impression that I'm opposed to friendly, respectful disagreement. Of course I'm not. The site would be useless if everyone agreed! And, anyway, it's not achievable. So I don't think you need to worry.

                                              There are people who gleefully enjoy food fights, though. Not helpful here. Anyway, I don't have much more to say on this, really. other than to say Kajira rice is in most good health food stores, and all places like Whole Foods, plus online via the link in my recipe posting.

                                            2. re: Jim Leff

                                              Though late, I agree with you. I have plenty of outlets, should I want confrontational interaction. Heck, just a drive down AZ 51 will give me that.

                                              While opposing ideas are wonderful, I do not feel that it's the same thing. To simplify things, you may like the ribs at that little shop on 32nd Street, and I might find them dreck. You may feel the same about my choice of ribs from the shop down on Baseline Road. That does not make my choice bad, or wrong. Save for the inverse. It just means that we like different things. That should be the level of discussion on CH - not "you'll see it my way, or I'll beat it into you."


                                          3. re: applehome

                                            Maybe we are talking about a different series of posts by 914NYC, but all I saw were honest attempts to help him/her to find a way to appreciate wine, as was requested do early on. The posts actually go back much further, than Alanbarne's references. I'd say over a year. I am not certain that the screen name was the same, but feel very strongly that this same person began the "help me learn about wine" posts, way back.

                                            My memory of those original threads are that the same level of community sprang forth from that board's subscribers. A lot of good suggestions, though all failed. Then, silence for a few months. Back again, with the same problem, "help me understand, please." Outpouring of attempts and suggestions. Then, the pace picked up, and almost all of the later ones were worded to inflame, whether by design, or not. Still, the majority of the subscribers on that board continued to offer help and suggestions. Only when things got to the point of absurdity, did anyone really speak out

                                            As to the comparison between mass-produced wines and more artisanally -crafted ones, the most common response was "to each, their own." These references did not come in until later in these postings.

                                            Earlier on, I believe that I detected a move to “bait” the Wine board folk, with openings to suggest “finer wines.” Few, if any, took the OP up on this and kept the suggestions very general. Most people on that particular board are not of a mind that if they suggest a wine to a poster, and they do not enjoy that wine, it is a problem with the poster. It is a difference of opinion only. I’d never try and convince anybody to like the wines that I do. I would gladly tell them why I like a wine, and what I find in to enjoy, but convince them to like it - never. That’s why there is more than one varietal of grape used to produce wine, an why there are many variations on the production from each of those varietals.

                                            That was the bulk of the responses, as I remember them - a general attempt to help and on a very broad scope. That is one of the things that I love about the Wine board. I am allowed to enjoy my Conundrum, while others would not touch it. No one is wrong, regarding their appreciation for an particular varietal, or specific wine. We obviously saw things differently.


                                          4. I giggle every time I read the title of this post.

                                            Peanuts? Crackers? Apples?

                                            3 Replies
                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                You made me snort - and I try to keep that to a minimum :)