Self-Storage Talk 'Trolls': Don't Be One, Don't Encourage Them
In the past, I have sung Self-Storage Talk's praises because community members tend to behave themselves. SST, the largest online forum in the industry, has more than 4,000 members but has very few petty, "flame war" arguments, which are typical of other forums. I still stand by these praises, and I credit it to two factors: 1.) an audience that's full of generally nice, respectful, hard-working people and 2.) a diligent and effective moderator team.
However, SST is not immune to the occasional "troll," a forum slang term for a poster who enjoys irritating other posters at every opportunity. (Troll is a perfect word because it makes you think of a misanthrope living under a bridge, doesn't it?) Trolls may not explicitly break website rules but they do skirt the acceptable/unacceptable line, and most of their posts contribute nothing but headaches to discussion threads. (I reiterate: These types of posters are a significant minority on SST.) It seems some forum posters don't even know they're "trolling." So, if you find yourself accused of being one or ensnared in a go-round with one, here are some tips:
How NOT to Be a Troll
Add value to your posts.
Try to answer others' questions or pose your own questions, first and foremost. When in doubt, ask, "Is what I'm posting going to help anyone else or help me learn something?"
"Let sleeping dogs lie."
Some subjects, industry-related and not, are lightning-rod, controversial topics. Unless they're truly pertinent to the thread title, they may not need to be brought up.
Think before hitting "submit."
We all get worked up and say (or type) things we don't mean. After you've typed a rant, ask yourself, "Do I really want everyone to read this?" If you post it and decide shortly after you want to take it down or edit it, by all means, use those edit and delete buttons!
Remember everyone you're talking with is a real person.
It's tempting to use the anonymity of the Internet as a smoke screen, thinking that no one's feelings are affected by what you say. Behind every screen name is a real person, so try behave online with the same respect you would as if you met someone in person.
How to Deal With a Troll
Ignore them; don't encourage them.
Trolls enjoy arguing. Because arguing isn't socially acceptable in face-to-face, "real world" situations, trolls turn to the Internet and think the same social rules don't apply there. Of course, it's difficult for anyone to argue with themselves. If you engage with a troll, even if you think you have a clever retort to their foolishness, you're playing right into their fingers. Respond "around" them and comment on others' posts, not theirs.
Say something to a moderator or the community manager.
It's our job to enforce site rules, and if someone is violating them or getting close to violating them, let us know. You can always e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep threads on track.
If a troll tries to hijack a discussion thread and you want to do something about it, post something to the effect of, "Back to the topic …." You can help others ignore trolls by reclaiming the conversation.
Try to laugh it off.
Someone's off-handed comments on a forum are not worth steaming over.
After all of this warning about trolls, I ask you to give Self-Storage Talk a chance. Why? Because even though we have thousands of great posters, we can always use more. If you're not registered, you can do so at www.selfstoragetalk.com/register.php for free. If you are registered but haven't posted in a while, we want your quality, substantive posts.
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