- A more up-to-date page is available at What is a troll?.
Trolling is a value judgment referring to behavior that the user of the word considers to be deliberately provocative. So, a troll is a deliberately provocative, attention-seeking, person inhabiting Wikiland who seeks to cause disharmony and Wikistress in the community. Many Wikipedians do not encourage or welcome trolls; their reactions ranging from trying to ignore them, to banning them.
The view that trolls are "necessary" to "fight groupthink" is not held by the majority of Wikipedia contributors, who come from many political and religious belief systems. The majority appear to believe that there are more than enough sources of conflict within Wikipedia to create the kind of tension that sometimes leads to clarifications and improvements. An overdose of conflict drives valued contributors away and wastes hours on minor disputes which could have been resolved within minutes.
Traditional wisdom on internet trolling suggests that the most important thing about trolls is not to feed them. Don't allow them to cause Wikistress. Ignore or revert their edits, but do not communicate with them unless they grow up and change their behavior. The troll is the archetype of an attention-seeker, and attention encourages them to continue trolling.
Trolling is a phenomenon that may afflict any community. Wikipedia is unusual because it lets any user edit the work of one or many others, and so enables some unique kinds of anti-social behavior.
Even if the topic of an article is uncontroversial, would-be authors may still disagree strongly about how to present it. In a dialogue involving strongly held views, it is likely that some antagonists will view others as arguing unreasonably or as being unreceptive to valid arguments. This creates a fertile ground for various subtle forms of trolling, as well as for long discussions about whether specific instances are trolling or not. In fact, accusing others of trolling itself has been used sometimes in trolling.
An alternative view, held by at least some Wikipedians, is that trolling is an accusation leveled at anyone with whom the accuser disagrees. People who feel their position is threatened by another will try to undermine that persons point of view by ad hominem attacks like 'you are a troll'.
The Chinese translation of the term turns out as "Internet provocation learning".
Common trolling phenomena
- Creation of pages thought by some not to be appropriate to the project's mission
- Restructuring content without any attempt at consensus
- Disingenuous participation in talk/project page discussions
- Controversial listing of articles on VfD, NPOV disputes, accuracy disputes
- Controversial listing of users in quick polls, rfc, and the like
- Violating the spirit of a policy while engaging in legalistic arguments over the letter of that policy
- Public harassment relying upon others for either approval or disapproval
- Making edits to a project's pages that are considered vandalism.
Common behavior often confused with trolling
- Vandalism of articles, user pages, talk pages, project pages; that is, adding or removing content with the intent to incite anger