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January 08, 2005


Mike D.

Ha! Nice. Does Typepad let you ban IP addresses? If so, that's the quickest way to axe trolls.

Paul Hughes

Hi Dan,

A few months ago our site used to get about 200-300 spam messages a day, including a couple of trolls.

We don't have this problem anymore since we installed MT's blacklist. As the above poster mentioned above it allows us to block specific IP addresses. It takes a little time at first, to blacklist the spamcomments and trolls, but now we never get any of this crap.

Dan Gillmor

I'll be vigilant on this stuff. Does Typepad let you use the MT blacklist?

Nathan Slaughter

Love the new blog, Dan.
It looks like TP has CAPTCHAs. That might work for you.

Howard Sands

You think Fran is your troll from the Mercury News site?

I know Fran Wilson. That's impossible, from the statements you're making about that troll.

She do know has dynamic IP from Pac Bell DSL. Was your troll a Pac Bell DSL user?

So, let me get this straight. Any conservative with internet from Pac Bell DSL, the largest DSL provider in Silicon Valley, is going to get banned?

I, too was outraged by your statement that the Bush Administration is "fond of torture". You walked over the line.

Your response, no apology, but banning Fran's comments? Erasing them from your own first draft of history.

Dan, I can't see how a project you might head up will wind up anywhere but squarely in the Democratic Party blogosphere, with narrow participation, unless you reverse course right now, apologize, and take a cold shower.


Why not get rid of comments altogether and leave only back tracking just like, e.g. boingboing?

Anspar Jonte

Howard, did Dan authorize you to paint your own lines onto his blog?

Tim Andonian

Get rid of the discussion?

Isn't grassroots journalism and democracy in and of the discussion? Dan, open this forum wider still. Give us more ways to moderate and build ideas. I have to say, I am very excited about the prospects your vision holds, but if you keep your current course with this space, I feel you are effectively doing opposite of what you say you are trying to accomplish. You have a nice readership here and I think it could flourish into a nice school of thought, moderated by yourself. Whatever big plans you are working on, please take some time and revamp this site, it can only help the cause you speak of.
As for blacklists and trolls. I have no idea what went down in this thread before it got erased, but I have to agree with Howard. Isn't this space about building bonds and making connections of ideas? By labeling people as a 'troll', as madening as it may be, we are effectively breaking bonds. I feel it is the leader's role to engage these people and try everything they can to foster transformation. Maybe a good analog would be our prison system in the states. If you tell someone they are a bad person and do nothing else, it seems to beget more 'bad' people.
Dan, no doubt you are a busy man and you probably feel like you have no time for those types of shinanigans. If you put some time into creating a community here, self regulation will emerge. And we all know you can't be present at this site 100 percent of the time with your schedule, but then there would be some people you could endow with your trust to moderate while you can't.
What do you think?
Sunnyvale, Ca.


Well, disagreement can be a valuable thing, but if Dan is getting people who disagree just to do so, that's not helpful. Of course, now I am curious as to what 'Fran' said.

But, folks -- as mentioned, please don't ban on IP addresses. Most spammers are using open proxies, so that means you're also banning people in Iran and China who are trying to circumvent government censorship.

And a spammer is not a troll and a troll is not a spammer. A blacklist is supposedly meant to help you control spam, not trolls. Trolls are 'real' people that enter comments in order to start fights. But they are real people.

Besides, Dan, wasn't your old Mercury site one that ended up in the Mt-blacklist blacklist because of a malicious spam entry? I remember something to that effect.

As for moderation, tough call. I like to think that a better approach is to teach my non trolling readers just not to respond, and then let the troll choke on their own words. But I don't alway follow this myself.


Dan, good for you. I have a similar problem with a homophobic troll-wannabe that wanders over to my site every now and again and occasionally harasses my fiancee as well. As people have noted though, I find it better to try and trace IPs first to find out if they likely belong to a user or a proxy of some description ... I feel for the real people who need the anon proxies to overcome censorship

To those who seem confused -- a troll isn't someone who just disagrees or offers a different viewpoint: usually they are malicious and make personal attacks or threats that can be quite distressing to the recipient.


Dan, every time you tell us what you're doing about trolls, you just invite more trollish responses. Take a new approach: never complain, never explain. If you see something objectionable, take it off the site and move on.

Bottom line: it's your weblog. Act like it.


I have been following Dan's blog for some time now and I am familiar with the troll he's talking about. Trust me, you don't want him here.

He isn't about discussion or even about a point of view. He just attacks. He makes up facts and he resorts to inflamatory language and name calling. When he's allowed to post the comment section becomes pointless to read. It just fills up with a bunch of off topic response and counter response nonsense.

Dan never deletes conservative comments, only inflammatory ones. It just so happens that the troll uses the right wing point of view to launch his attacks. He turns everything into a political agenda. He sometimes writes almost normal, but over time it becomes obvious he's not quite right.

These comments are a better place without that guy.

Tim Andonian

Points well taken. I have never seen any of the mailicious activity you all describe. I like what bob said, in that the moderator is the final say and it should just be done and that is that.

Howard Sands

Oh this is great.

First, Dan besmirches Fran Wilson, because her dynamic IP maps to one of the hundreds of thousands allocated by SBC DSL in the Bay Area. He deleted a number of her postings, prompted by Dan's characterizing Bush Administration unlawful combatants policy in the War as a "fondness for ... torture".

Of course, only a TROLL could find this offensive. (And here, I thought Dan sought a fresh start, and participation in his new "venture" from centrists and even conservatives).

Now, Dan lets stand a posting by Mark Gisleson, an admitted hooligan offering to take matters into his own hands.

After he apologizes to Fran, and reinstates her postings, I hope he WILL ban Mark Gisleson.

Tim Andonian

Another thread making a perfect example as to why, Dan, you need to offer this forum better tools for organizing and self regulation.
It's quickly becoming un productive.

Dan Gillmor

If Fran Wilson is a real person and sends me a personal email, I'll unblock that IP address. Mark's comment is over the top, I agree. I'm not interested in vigilantism here.

Stephen Downes

I'm sympathetic. I've had to deal with trolls. There is no reasoning with them, and they leave a trail of digital pollution.

I think that comment sections are on their last legs. Between the spam and the trolls, they become more effort than they're worth.

There are ways to get commentary onto your site without opening a comments section, but they haven't been invented yet. But trust me, they're coming.

Howard Sands

Obviously, you intend to hold Fran responsible for the behavior of every miscreant who's ever trolled your blog. Why should she send you personally identifying information?

You strike me as the litigious type.

So, you have a de-facto registration system for centrists and conservatives, but you're leaving the door wide open for the liberal left?

Is that how your new "venture" will work too?

Good grief. Fran is most certainly a real person, and a serious contributer to a variety of conservative blogs.

I doubt she'll stick around after such foul mistreatment at your hands.


Speaking from ignorance here...

But would it work to put up a weekly "Dan has his head up his..." post, where even inflammatory criticism could go (and stay) in the comments?

And require civility in comments anywhere else.

This way the troll and the more irate readers could have their needs met, and so could the rest of us.

(this assumes that it's due to the urge for expression and not the urge for pollution; might be worth trying, to find out.)

Perhaps also have a periodic "Ideas for improving this blog" post, for Tim and the occasional Anna, so we don't go putting up off-topic comments.

Tim Andonian

Right on Anna. There is some goood progressive ideas.

I still hold on to the notion that empowering the people and letting ourselves self regulate is the best answer.

Empower us Dan!


It won't work. The troll does not want to just "vent." He wants to insult people. It's different. He called me an idiot and a moron for views I expressed one time. Is that really the sort of stuff you want to read? I've accidentally responded to his remarks on occasion and it's always been to my regret. It just encourages his bad behavior. He's not open to normal discussion.

He won't stay in the forum you're suggesting because his goal is strictly disruption and he'll go where he can do the most of it. Dan is really doing the only thing that can be done in this situation.


Dan --In the old days, as a Fidonet sysop, I deleted what I chose to from the bbs, telling the perp, "You're in my living room."

That's grassroots j at its most local.

Joost Schuur

I haven't been following your comments much in the past, so there may be more to it, but don't feed the troll! Don't validate his/her activities and ego by posting an article dedicated to them. Delete their postings, try and ban them, but otherwise ignore them fully.

I admit though, this does make it difficult to rectify situations where people were inadvertantly labelled as a troll and banned.

Mack Zulkifli

The damning part about all of this is that there is always a level headed commentor that despite not siding the troll, pick up an opportunity to discredit your action by allegations of double standards. I moderate my blog, mainly to avoid spam. I also avoid any confrontations that will not bring to any party a semblance of benefit by forwarding an issue that is going nowhere. If someone picked on my mistake, and yes, I am prone to them despite all the care to not make them, I even go as far as to not publish the comment. Instead, i write the name/contact and details of the error this person has alerted me to, apologise and publish how I shall avoid it in the future. Most people point out mistakes out of genuine concern. Some out of genuine malice. I too have no room for that, as it is tough enough trying to converse with my audience in a manner that I shall not be a different form of the fourth estate. That is after all the point of evolution. Fishy reptiles that fly would be really ugly. Blog on Dan!

Karen M.

I included the following in a comment on another thread. I'll be more careful in the future to separate my comments...

Hurrah! for someone choosing to delete trolls' comments. It's way past time. It's not as if they supplied their own email addresses or web-sites where one could pay them a return call. Isn't that how SPAM originated? Fingers in one's ears, while drowning out other voices?

Dan isn't asking them to sign a loyalty oath, after all, but simply requiring a modicum of good behavior.

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