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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Trolls, Sockpuppets, and Cyberbullies—How to Blog Part IV: Dealing with Difficult Blog Visitors

by Anne R. Allen

Blogging is fun, and a wonderful way to network and build your author platform. But it’s not always rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes a visitor may disagree with you or be confrontational in some way. Nothing wrong with that. If it’s done in a friendly manner, disagreement can be an excellent way to stimulate conversation and learn to see things from another point of view. I’ve learned a lot from people who have pointed out my mistakes and blogging faux-pas.

But the occasional commenter crosses the line from polite disagreement to a verbal attack or full-on temper tantrum.

Starting a blog is like opening a shop. Anybody out there on the street can drop in. Most people who come by will be great. But some might be substance abusers or suffer from mental illness. Some might be looking for a fight. Others can be just plain mean.

Do remember it’s your blog, and it’s your responsibility to make it a safe place for your commenters, so if one of your followers is attacked, speak up. 

Problems can be compounded by the fact that online we can’t see the dangerous ones coming. When you meet somebody in person, you get a lot of clues about how to interact with them. A woman wearing a tinfoil hat and muttering about the invaders from Betelgeuse probably won’t be the one you choose to chat up as a new friend, and most of us aren’t going to worry much whether some guy sporting racist tattoos and an Aryan Nation baldscape likes us or not.

Age is a major clue, too. When you meet somebody in her seventies, you won’t expect her to have the same world view as somebody of seventeen.

But when people comment on blogs, we treat them all as peers. This can be good or bad, depending on the type of interaction.

Here’s an example. This week I used the word “Luddite” in a short, friendly blog comment. Another commenter found the word highly offensive and went into a three paragraph rant against me.

(Actual Luddites were an early 19th cent. group in the English Midlands who resisted the Industrial Revolution and revered a mythical Robin-Hood type figure called King Ludd.)

When a Boomer like me uses the word, we usually mean somebody who thinks the Internet is a fad and still takes photos with the Instamatic he got in 1976. To the young woman who had the melt-down, apparently it means somebody who doesn’t have the latest Kindle Fire. If she’d seen my matronly, aging self, she might not have assumed I was attacking her lack of geek-chic.

Although you can’t be sure. She also might have been one of those people who surf the ’Net looking for ways to feel insulted. Insults generate self-righteous rage, which produces endorphins that some people find addictive. They will ferret out anything that can set off their anger triggers, so they’ll feel justified in beating others to an emotional pulp.

Insult-Ferrets are just one of the disruptive types who might wander into your blog. I’ve listed some others here.

Your first instinct will be to delete an out-of-line comment, but that’s not always the best solution, especially if you’re dealing with Cyber-Taliban types. They may feel you haven’t properly submitted to their will, so they might launch a crusade against you on other blogs and forums and the problem will escalate.

I’ve made suggestions on when to delete comments. Do immediately delete anything that is bigoted, libelous, or deliberately hurtful to any of your readers.

It helps to remember you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Humor is subjective, and some people will feel offended by any kind of joke. There are common brain conditions that leave people unable to understand whimsy, hyperbole for comic effect, or irony of any kind, so a lot of humor is a mystery to them.

Remember people tend to judge other people by themselves. Happy, friendly people assume others are happy and friendly until proved otherwise. Angry, nasty people assume everybody else is angry and nasty, too. When they accuse you of bizarre things, they aren't saying anything about you; they're telling you what is in their own heads.

And the truth is—no matter how nice you are, some folks are just not going to like you. You have to ignore them and concentrate on the people who do.

Here are some of the disruptive people to watch out for.

1) Trolls. “Troll” is an all-encompassing term that means pretty much anybody who’s looking to cause trouble and might be lurking under a cyberbridge. Trolls thrive on creating conflict for its own sake. If they happen on a Christian blog, they’ll post an atheist manifesto. Then they’ll go to an atheist site and tell them they’re all going to Hell. Their posts are often obscene or bigoted. They’re probably living in their mom’s basement and haven’t had work since they lost the dishwashing job at Krusty Burger in 2008. These are people who feel pretty helpless in the world, and this is how they make themselves feel powerful.

Solution: Don’t feed trolls! Any engagement at all will be perceived as encouragement. They crave attention and don’t care if it’s negative or positive. Delete the post and try to laugh about it with offline friends. No matter how nasty the remark, remember it’s not aimed at you. It’s the whole world these people hate. And even if you feel sorry for them, if you're not a mental health professional hired to treat them, your best bet is to give them a wide berth.

Tip: Trolls usually post as “anonymous” so if you’re hearing from them regularly, you can change your settings to require a name in order to comment.

2) Sockpuppets. On the Interwebz, “sockpuppet” means somebody using a false identity to praise himself or attack his competitors, posing as an independent third party. The term first originated in Internet communities and spread when customer reviews started gaining importance on shopping sites. Somebody using a false name might post comments praising his own product or knocking competitors. Sockpuppet reviews are sometimes offered for sale. I saw a site recently that offered positive one-line reviews on Amazon for $5, or negative ones for a competitor’s book for $10. That explains why you sometimes see Amazon pages with 25 or 30 nearly identical, generic reviews. (I don’t think they fool very many readers.) People also use sockpuppets for blog comments that promote their own agendas. Bogus, fee-charging agents, for instance, sometimes pose as clients to talk up their agency on writing blogs.

Solution: Use your judgment and delete as necessary. If you know the puppet’s true identity, you can respond with the person’s real name, and that may deflate them. If you see an obvious sock puppet review on a writer’s Amazon page, report abuse.

Tip: If you have a tech-savvy friend, they can usually find the identity of a puppet visiting your blog through their IP address.

3) Insult Ferrets. These people are rage addicts looking for a fix. They’re surfing the ’Net looking for things that make them feel insulted, so they can justify going on the attack. If the young woman I mentioned above is one of them, she’ll have a whole list of trigger words besides “Luddite.” She might go off on a blogger for using the word “Heffalump,” because that’s what her cheating ex-husband called her when she was in her third trimester. Or the word “blue” will send her into a wild temper tantrum because everybody says her eyes are blue, but they’re really blue-green, kind of, when she wears that green blouse. Insult Ferrets tend to be narcissistic and think everything is about them.

Solution: Try to soothe ruffled feathers, but realize you’ve done nothing wrong. If a Ferret attacks one of your commenters, call her on it in a friendly but firm way. If you’re attacked on your own blog, apologize, even if you’re clearly not in the wrong, but only respond once. Don’t engage in conversation. Don’t delete unless the comment is seriously over the top, because that will anger the Ferret further and anger is what they feed on. They’ll come back for more.

Tip: You can block addresses by reporting them as spam.

4) The Politically Correctibot. This is a version of the Insult Ferret—people who browse blogs looking for perceived insults—not to themselves, but some downtrodden demographic. They often have the linguistic sense of Spellcheck software. They might attack a blogger for using the word “fatuous,” calling it an insult to fat people. Or they’ll attack anybody who talks about Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi” as being unsympathetic to the Holocaust. I once got attacked for being “ageist” on this blog because I suggested that some of us Boomers have trouble learning the latest ways of the Interwebz. I can guarantee the attackers weren’t Boomers, because we KNOW how hard it is to keep up with this stuff.

Solution: If they’re berating you, it’s probably best to simply ignore them, but if it’s one of your commenters being dissed, speak up. Often you can leave an idiotic comment in place, because it doesn’t harm anybody but the person who wrote it.

5) The Cyber-Taliban. These are Ferrets and Correctibots who operate as a tribe. They see themselves as the righteousness police—often enforcing a set of rules unknown outside their own niche demographic. I knew an author who had in some mysterious way stepped on the cybertoes of a fanatical online group. The day his next book came out, he got ten one-star Amazon reviews. I sent him a sympathetic tweet and immediately got flooded with DM’s warning me not to associate with the “evil” author.

Solution: Report abuse. Then run. Disengage from these people in any way you can. Delete if the comment is over-the-top, but otherwise, it may be wiser to let it stand so they think they've "won." But then unfollow, block, and unfriend. There’s no way to have a rational encounter with mass hysteria.

6) Cyberbullies. The fanatics above were being cyberbullies. But bullies don’t need to be motivated by righteousness. Some are just mean. Destroying innocent lives and reputations is fun for them. You’ve seen the headlines. They often work in packs and can, in some cases, actually cause death by making vulnerable people commit suicide. Teens are especially susceptible to this, both as victims and perpetrators, but adults can be victimized too. I have personally received death threats from some Cyber-Taliban bullies. Scary stuff.

Solution. Report them and get help on the National Crime Prevention Website if you're in the US. They are breaking the laws of most countries. There is no reason to put up with criminal behavior, even if it’s “only on the Internet.” Delete seriously offensive comments, but you might want to leave some up if you can stand it. A self-incriminating post will catch up to the perpetrator eventually and will get you lots of support and sympathy from sane people.

If you see somebody being bullied on a blog, try to reach out to them through their own blog or other social media. They may be newbies who could end up seriously hurt.

Some bloggers are cyberbullies themselves and can cause real pain to unsuspecting people who think they’re in friendly territory. Victims may think they’ve somehow done something to deserve the snark or personal attacks.

NOTE: If you feel you’re in real, physical danger from a cyberbully who shows knowledge of where you live and work, contact local law enforcement immediately.

The most important thing to keep in mind when dealing with blog meanies is: DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Remember it has nothing to do with you. You’re just a random victim. How you should deal with them individually depends on the severity of the attack and how strongly it affects your blog and your followers. 

NOTE: That word verification ‘CAPTCHA’ thing does nothing to keep the meanies out. It only keeps out spam robots—the ones trying to sell Ukrainian porn and knock-off handbags. Your spam filter also works on bots, and it’s usually just as good as the CAPTCHA. The rest you can delete yourself.

But CAPTCHA will keep out commenters. I highly recommend turning it off.

Monitoring your comments will keep the nasty comments from appearing on your blog, but it also prevents any type of conversation in the thread, and comes across as amateurish and paranoid, so I don’t suggest monitoring comments on your newest posts unless you’re under a severe meanie attack.

What about you, scriveners? Have you had any encounters with these people? How did you handle it? Do you have any disrupters to add to the list?

Next week, on February 15th, I’ll be visiting Romance University, where I’ll be talking about introducing your protagonist. On Sunday February 26th, Ruth Harris will be at the helm here, talking about how to write fiction based on factual events. 

VALENTINE BLOG HOP: Click the pink box on the right for our Val Hop page. You have two more days to enter for some pretty amazing prizes.

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Once in a while I get the 'down with American women' spam comment. No idea who those people are! But there are negative trolls out there and even packs of negative trolls.. Never understood why someone would get joy out of spreading negative around. Other than it probably comes from someone who is miserable and wants everyone else to be miserable as well.

February 12, 2012 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger Annalisa Crawford said...

That was really interesting. I had an altercation with someone - I disageed with them and they took it personally. They inferred something very peculiar from my comments - I won't elaborate in case they read this - but I deleted my comments because I could see we were going to get into very odd territory. I felt really bad for provoking that reaction now, and these days tend not to comment rather than disagree, which also feels wrong in a way.

February 12, 2012 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger Charley R said...

I've not had any trouble with those people as of yet *touches wood and thanks heck*, but thank you so much for this post. I honestly would have just panicked and deleted the comment. Thanks for the tips!

May the fleas of a million camels infest the underpants of all cyberbullies for all eternity! xD

February 12, 2012 at 10:14 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Hillier said...

Great post, Anne. Like Alex I've received the "down with American women" troll posts, but I've been lucky that no one else has bothered me. (Probably because I don't have THAT many readers!)

February 12, 2012 at 10:18 AM  
Blogger Tonya Kappes said...

There seems to be a lot of this going around lately. Luckily, I haven't been a victim. I guess since I don't surround myself with these types of people, my career reflects it. I was told by a very smart Jennifer Cruise to cut ties with someone who shows one side on the internet and as a indie author, but a completely different person in person. It was the BEST advice I've ever gotten. Surround yourself with positive people:))

February 12, 2012 at 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anna Soliveres said...

Great post, Anne! Exactly what I needed to read right now. I find myself having developed OCD-like symptoms, compulsions to check the web/blog stats/comments etc whenever the anxiety strikes! Yikes...

Grateful to have stumbled on your blog!


February 12, 2012 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Anna Soliveres said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

February 12, 2012 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Kamille Elahi said...

Thanks for the interesting post!

I haven't had any problems on my blog but it's kind of small so that's probably why.

I'm sorry you got someone like this on your blog. Some people just need to chill a bit!

February 12, 2012 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex—I haven’t got that one yet, but it sounds icky. Negativity is a source of energy for some people. Nothing we can do but give them a wide berth and not engage.

Annalisa—I share your dilemma. I like respectful dissenting points of view here because they promote discussion, which is what makes a thread interesting. But some people only want praise. And if they’re Insult Ferrets, they’ll find disagreement in comments even when it isn’t intended and try to pick a fight. Remember they’re high on their own rage, so it’s like dealing with a drunk. Never argue with them. You were wise to delete your comment, but not wrong to post it in the first place.

Charlie—Definitely. Fleas of million camels in their cyberpants!

Jennifer—Now I’m starting to feel left out. That particular troll hasn’t visited me, but it sounds like somebody who can’t get a girlfriend in any country.

Tonya—Staying off the sites of cyberbullies is definitely wise, but nobody’s immune. No matter how positive and helpful you are, an Insult Ferret can find something to fault you for, and trolls are pretty much equal-opportunity invaders. They might hate you just for being nice.

Anna—Welcome! I know that kind of anxiety “What if I offended somebody? What if they take that comment the wrong way?” Don’t worry about it. Yes, it happens, but going back to apologize or doesn’t always pay off. If the person insulted is a rage junkie, the situation will just escalate.

Kamille--Actually the worst encounters haven't all been on my own blog. They often happen on other blogs when somebody takes a comment the wrong way. As a blog gets more popular, it gets more trolls--just the way it is. But if you get attacked, know everybody's a target sooner or later. These people are everywhere.

February 12, 2012 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Terrific post, Anne. Alerted me to lots of bad stuff I've been lucky to avoid so far.

Brrrrr. (shudders)

February 12, 2012 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Kamille Elahi said...

Yeah I've seen some nasty encounters on other blogs. Makes me glad my blog is small! I hope I don't get attacked any time soon. Nobody deserves an attack, especially on the internet when everyone is so vulnerable.

February 12, 2012 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

Anne, I might be one of the lucky ones but so far so good. Nothing but a few strange looking "like" icons; one or two really weird followers (which WP does not allow you to delet) ... but for some reason none of these have left comments of any kind :) Great advise ... especially for those who have hundreds of followers and are might be more at risk for this type of comment.

February 12, 2012 at 1:23 PM  
Anonymous Mari Passananti said...

What an interesting piece. I had an insult ferret last year. She went a bit cuckoo over a post in early december. I responded once, firmly and kindly and she got nastier. So I blocked her. I see nothing wrong with blocking people who add nothing constructive. Sure, a blog can be a conversation, but my blog is my conversation, at the end of the day.

February 12, 2012 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--Thanks. We've been pretty lucky here.

Kamille--You're right that we're all vulnerable. The Internet may feel private, but we're really out in public here. You never know who might be lurking. Best to be aware of what might happen so you know what to do and you don't take it personally.

Florence--Those strange icons might have been from some kind of spammer. Your spam filter may have got their comments, which is why you never saw them. I've never wanted to delete a follower--and we LOVE all 999 of you!--but it's too bad you can't do that if somebody is really nasty. I guess we have to hope they'll slink away.

Mari--Sounds as if you did exactly the right thing. Stating a dissenting opinion in a respectful way can be helpful to a discussion, but trying to start a fight is obnoxious. Don't need that kind of negativity on your blog. As you say, it's yours and you can make the rules.

February 12, 2012 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Churadogs said...

Mari said she "blocked" one particular trollish person. Being a Luddite, I can't seem to get my blog site to be able to block one particular person (except to just dump their comments every time they show up). How does that work, I wonder, being able to block one particular troll, who's using a fake name and email? Near as I can see, having people sign up to comment just results in fake names with "free" email addresses and I'm too much of a Luddite to be able to track those people down.

Well, meantime, Anne, all your suggestions are excellent. I suppose the only way to avoid the crazies is to write stuff that's so bland and boring and washed of all meaning and content so that even the crazies won't read it. But then, what's the point of that?

February 12, 2012 at 2:23 PM  
Anonymous Leona Wisoker said...

Excellent post! I love the detailing out of all the different types. Very helpful. I'll be "sharing" this one on FB... there's only one thing I'll disagree with, and it's a matter of personal habit: since I have my blog set to email me whenever a comment is made, and since I check my email several times a day and well into the evening most times, I do require comment approval for first-time commenters. Once they've been approved, their posts appear instantly from then on; so the regulars don't have any trouble, and it's a fairly short delay for newcomers. And I've yet to pull a legit post out of the spam folder. :) But as someone else said--my blog is small yet. This may be more of an issue in the future. Thanks for all your posts--I don't comment often, but I always read, learn, & enjoy!

February 12, 2012 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Z said...

Great post. Thank you!

February 12, 2012 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger Ann Best said...

There's bad stuff in the BIG world, and bad stuff in the MINI world. Fortunately I haven't been affected directly by any really awful stuff in either sphere. But I learned a lot from this post, Anne, about what to look for and how to deal with it should I get any awful comments. My spam filter on WordPress catches all the "dippy" stuff--and so far it's only "dippy" and not evil--which is good. And I DO wish EVERYONE would turn off captcha!!
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

February 12, 2012 at 2:37 PM  
Blogger M.M. Gornell said...

WOW, Anne, what an eye opener. Excellent information and well presented. Guess I've been lucky so far, just unwanted ad posts. Thanks for the heads-up!!


February 12, 2012 at 3:10 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Churadogs--Your blog has some political content, so you're a magnet for meanies. The easiest way is to hit the "report for spam" button. You might have to moderate your comments for a month or so in order to do that, but in your case, it might be worth it.

Leona--I don't think Blogger has a function where you moderate some comments and not others. WordPress has more functions. If that works for you, great. Moderating comments tells me somebody's not much interested in interaction, so I don't comment, but there's no rule that says you have to have comments on your blog--or followers, either. Some people use a blog more as a static website. For people who've had troll attacks, I do think it might be worth it to moderate as I told Churadogs above. If you still want comments, you might say "due to troll attacks, comments will be moderated temporarily."

Z-Glad you liked it!

Ann--The dippy stuff can be hilarious, can't it? Some of the thesaurus-written faux English is like a Monty Python skit. Glad to hear another anti-captcha voice. The truth is, a lot of people don't know they have it. Every so often, Blogger turns it back on without telling you. :-(

M.M.--They didn't happen to me until I started getting a lot of traffic, luckily, but I have seen trolly things on newbie blogs and people do feel hurt when they don't know it's not personal.

February 12, 2012 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Another fine post,
Thus far on Wordmonger (thanks again for last week's mention) I have been pleasantly troll-free.

And I agree with getting rid of Capcha & other paranoid measures. My experience has been that the Blogspot cyber-munchkins occasionally switch my settings bak to their default, so I have to keep checking & re-setting.

As my sainted mother regularly said, "Life is funny. We may as well laugh."

February 12, 2012 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Excellent post as always. Some people just have too much time on their hands. The ones I usually delete are those who are obviously promoting their own business to write essays and term papers even though they can't spell or construct a sentence correctly.

February 12, 2012 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Yvonne Osborne said...

Thankfully I haven't had any contact with the Cyber-Taliban types (like that term)and hope to keep it that way, online and off!

Thanks, Anne.

February 12, 2012 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger goldensylph said...

Enjoyed this. Sometimes, I've gotten responses that are irate when I've written to Technorati. I responded back in measured way and then left it. Other types, Trolls, thank goodness never had the experience with them. Tricky. Did see them on Occupy sites...or streaming Occupy sites. They were eventually ignored.

Thanks for sharing.

February 12, 2012 at 8:20 PM  
Blogger Leslie Rose said...

Hadn't given any of this brain space. I sure will now. Enjoyed the break down and the monikers.

February 12, 2012 at 9:21 PM  
Anonymous mark williams international said...

Love the Politically Correctibots! There are just so many downtrodden demographics to feel insulted on behalf of.

Just wish I had the time to feel insulted like these people. There's a lot to be said for living at home in Mom's cellar!

February 13, 2012 at 12:13 AM  
Blogger Patrick Samphire said...

Ah, yes. I've seen a lot of these people around, and boy do they love getting offended by things.

I always call those 'insult ferrets' of yours 'offense junkies', because they seem to get high on taking offense about things that are in no way offensive to any reasonable person. Best ignored, I think.

February 13, 2012 at 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Kristen Lamb said...

LOVE the post! as a humor author I deal with a lot of these self-righteous commenters. I once wrote a blog and made some comment akin to "Never piss off a writer. There could be a part for a nose-picking cross-dresser who dies in a tragic blow-up doll accident." Of course then I got all these long politicizing comments about how I was being insensitive to a picked on demographic and my attitude is GET A LIFE! DELETE. We have GOT to learn to laugh. A sense of humor is what keeps our sanity. Aren't there better things in life to use your time for? Really? Funny how no group gets indignant when I comment about having a blonde moment. Where is your righteous anger now?

February 13, 2012 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Robena Grant said...

What a great post. Excellent advice.
I've only had one really bad comment where the woman took something I'd written as a personal affront to her medical illness. I was scratching my head over that one. But, I knew enough not to engage. I did leave the comment up though. She hasn't been back. : )
Thanks so much for your information.

February 13, 2012 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Mr. Perryess— “Life is funny; you may as well laugh.” I think I should embroider that on a pillow or something. Great words to live by.

Marilyn—I’m always so amazed by those spammers. Do they ever read their own stuff? People with no lives do like to mess up everybody else’s.

Yvonne—The Taliban types are the nastiest, in my experience. Mob hysteria is so dangerous.

Carole—Political sites and articles definitely are troll magnets. Or sometimes a troll will try to make something political that isn’t. Tech sites have their own brand of Taliban and Correctibots. Amazing how emotional people can get about machines.

Leslie—They aren’t worth much brainspace, for sure. But forewarned is forearmed.

Mark—The Correctibots have such a smorgasbord of victims to choose from. And when you’re permanently angry, you don’t have much to get yourself a life.

Kristen—How dare you speak disrespectfully of the blow-up doll community?!! ROFL. I thought I was safe with my Boomer jokes, so beware, some Correctibot may decide even blondes can’t have blonde moments.

Robena--It sounds as if you did exactly the right thing. Just let the craziness hang there, without engaging. Most of them are only dissing themselves.

February 13, 2012 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Patrick--(I have no idea why some comments take longer to show up than others) "Offense junkies" is a great term! Probably more accurate than "Insult Ferret" (I just like "ferret" because it sounds funny) But "Junkie" is spot on. These people are actually addicted to the serotonin fix they get from that self-righteous anger. Thanks for the insight.

February 13, 2012 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Juli Page Morgan said...

It's only happened to me once on my "everything-but-writing" blog. I was praising a local venue for their summer concert series and mentioned some upcoming acts which included a diva-ish singer who was popular in the 60s. I wrote I'd rather mop the kitchen floor than see this woman in concert. And BOOM! A sad little person crawled from his mother's basement (armed with a thesaurus to judge from his comment) to berate me on my overall stupidity and lack of talent of any sort. Then he posted a link to my blog on his fansite and basements all over the country became hotbeds of indignation. I finally deleted the post and wrote another praising the venue without mentioning the diva. (Her concert, by the way, was a bomb. I admit I felt vindicated.)

February 13, 2012 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger Cathryn Leigh said...

I must say the trolls and bots of varying ranks can be, interesting, at times. I had no idea so many types exisited.

I have seen some of them in discussion boards for the MMOs I played (like World of Warcraft). In fact I didn't post anything on one board, because I was so scared of being flamed by the big names. thankfully I had some big names in my guild, so the couple times I did post nothing happened. Still it's made me away of how many people there are out there who let being anonymous be an excuse to forget their humanity.

I'm glad to say *knock on wood* that I haven't had anything truly horrible said on my blog. It's still small though, so probably not worth their effort; yet. *grin*

:} Cathryn

February 13, 2012 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Juli--LOL. You do NOT mess with music fans. The more obscure and awful the music, the more basement-dwellers are on the lookout for people dissing their idol. Nick Hornby wrote an absolutely brilliant novel on the subject of demented fans (and what the idol really thinks of them.) It's called "Juliet, Naked" and it's one of my favorite novels I've read this year. Sounds as if you'd enjoy it.

And a big shout-out to the talented Haley N. Jones, our 1000th follower! Welcome Haley, may you sell your screenplay to Spielberg!

February 13, 2012 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger James Duckett said...

Excellent post. I've shared this with others!

February 14, 2012 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Patrick Samphire said...

Hi Anne,

Just putting another comment here to say that I've been trying to respond to a comment you left on my blog, but blogger is refusing to let me. So, just wanted to let you know that I wasn't ignoring your comment!

February 14, 2012 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Cathryn--I think a lot of the bad behavior (and the term "flaming") spills over from those gaming sites. People are anonymous there, and get up a head of steam in a combative game atmosphere. When somebody thinks of himself as a giant, invincible purple troll, he thinks he can get away with anything. Small blogs aren't immune, but the law of averages says you're not as likely to get hit.

James--Thanks a bunch.

Patrick--Thanks. I see your comment finally did go through. Isn't it annoying when Blogger won't let you comment on your own blog? Great post on the fact "literary" writing vs. "popular" writing is a false dichotomy. All the classic literary writers WERE popular.

February 14, 2012 at 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Rhonda Hopkins said...

Great post and lots of wonderful advice. I would caution though that sometimes people just have bad days. I saw the post/comments that you referred to above (yours, hers and the bloggers). I know the person who commented and she certainly doesn't fit into any of those categories. I don't know why she took such offense to the term you used, but like I said...maybe she just had a bad day. You should go back to where she posted her comment and click the link to visit her blog. She uses it to help people overcome violence.

February 15, 2012 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rhonda--Thanks for letting me know. I was pretty sure the rant wasn't really aimed at me personally. I figured somebody had been rude to her and that word triggered the anger she wished she'd expressed at the perpetrator. We all have hot-button issues. I know I've let loose on innocent people a few times when they hit my trigger subjects. It sounds as if she's doing good in the world. I'll check out her blog. Thanks.

February 15, 2012 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger Patricia Gligor said...

Great post, Anne. Thanks for all the info!

February 16, 2012 at 6:59 AM  
Blogger Aisha said...

I am trying to imagine on what planet someone would give you a death threat? How insane! Thanks for this great post had been having a few trolls myself these days it is amazing how much they can get under your skin.

February 19, 2012 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger Miriam Joy said...

I don't know, I think I'd be pretty quick to make friends with someone muttering about Betelgeuse. They sound like my kind of person.

In all seriousness, though, great advice in this post. Just, I had to say that ;)

February 19, 2012 at 1:37 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...


Aisha--So sorry to hear you've had trolls. The death threats kind of gobsmacked me, too. All over a post on book reviews they chose to misunderstand. I always thought most reviewers were also writers. But it seems there's mortal combat going on between some reviewers and some authors. And there's a review Taliban with some crazy rules nobody knows, but woe be to those who break them. Who knew?

Miriam--That's true. But this woman thought the Betelgeusians were going to attack, when everybody knows--they're friendly! :-) Glad you liked it.

February 19, 2012 at 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Nancy Popovich said...

This is my first time to your blog, which I accessed through WG2E and thoroughly enjoyed not only what you said, but your tongue in cheek way. And, I learned about all kinds of cyber creatures never before known. Death threats! This is me shaking my head in disbelief.

February 22, 2012 at 6:32 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Nancy--So glad you stopped by. I like to keep the tone light and add a little humor when I can. Yeah, the death threats kind of gobsmacked me, too. I didn't take them seriously, but just knowing that somebody could hate my bland little post so much that he'd go find my home address and threaten me was sooooo creepy.

February 22, 2012 at 1:53 PM  
Anonymous Chihuahua0 said...

I found this post through Twitteriffic.

And you got it all down. Trolls can be such nasties.

And I agree on the CAPTCHA. Since I don't have many comments anyways, there's no point adding an extra block to discourage people.

February 26, 2012 at 5:24 PM  
Blogger Keli said...

Excellent post. Great info on dealing with negative blogging situations, but also shed some light on real life interpersonal conflict. Thanks!

February 27, 2012 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger Keli said...

Excellent post. Great info on dealing with negative blogging situations, but also shed some light on real life interpersonal conflict. Thanks!

February 27, 2012 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Chihuahua--Glad you stopped by. Yeah. CAPTCHA can be so annoying and sometimes you don't even know you have it, since they don't make the blog owner use it comment.

Keli--Yeah, this kind of stuff sometimes happens in "real life" too, doesn't it? It helps to know the motivations. Not so nasties get excused, but so victims don't blame ourselves.

February 27, 2012 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger Elephant's Eye said...

Amateur and paranoid here, also not interested in interaction ;~)

I still prefer to moderate all my comments. Kill the spam, retrieve the genuine comments from regular readers which the spam filters have scooped up with mistaken enthusiasm.

I have a message up at my comment box - I read all comments before I publish them. You may have to wait until I am back on the computer, but you will know I have READ your comment. To me that is a way to thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. Works for me.

February 28, 2012 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Elephant--If your spam filter is that inefficient, then by all means moderate. Mine is so good I guess I assume they're all like that. It does occasionally block real users, so they have to comment as "anon" (so sorry Florence!) but it's maybe let through 10 pieces of spam and 7 trolls in three years. Which I caught within minutes. But hey, if you're selling books, then there's no problem. Like those nightclubs that only let in the pretty and rich, sometimes exclusivity can work for you.

February 28, 2012 at 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Julie Gray said...

I was attached by a Cyber-Taliban pack of about 15 really dedicated meanies (that word is SO insufficient for their vitriol) in the summer/fall of 2010. It was horrible. It was beyond horrible. They followed me EVERYWHERE. As a way of coping and trying to understand, I blogged on the Huffington Post about cyber bullying and how awful it is and they followed me to that post and crowded it with MORE awful comments. I had to take the post down bc they wouldn't stop. The Huffington Post, which moderates comments, did nothing. It was so ironic. Cyber Bullies of the Taliban stripe are like modern day lynch mobs. They feed off of each other's energy in a sick but highly charged way. I had the WONDERFUL pleasure of bumping into one of them in person a few months later. I introduced myself to him quite sweetly and waited for him to let me have it, in person, in public. He didn't. He was red-faced and stammering. These cyber bullies are in fact cowards in need of serious anger management and counseling. I felt a bit vindicated, there in that moment, when face-to-face interaction made it impossible for this powerful online troll to be his online self, but I must admit, I am still deeply traumatized from that event. I still look over my online shoulder to this day. I have learned, over the many years I have blogged, how to deal with the lone troll - IGNORE is the only answer. You CANNOT engage them. But the pack - the pack is impossible to control. Honestly, in years past, before the internet, these are the types who would be in a lynch mob or a witch burning or a pogrom. Now it's even better for them because you never see their faces. What a deeply sick way of being is all I can say. It's tough emotionally because my reputation was definitely hurt very badly by their bullying and they got away with it, so to speak. I never considered suicide or anything close to that (I'm no teenager) but my business took a serious hit for some time. Their cyber-bullying had real financial impact that I feel to this day. I am now rebuilding and regaining my confidence and reputation. Such a small group of people can do so much damage.

July 4, 2012 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie, thanks so much for sharing this chilling story. I get so angry at people who say "you must have provoked it", "you shouldn't blog about anything controversial" but I know that nobody is immune--and no post too bland for a bunch of crazies to invent a reason to hate it.

I used "Taliban" to describe them, but I think your use of "pogrom" isn't far off the mark either. This is mob mentality gone insane and it can destroy people. When I got real-life death threats, it sent me into panic attacks that affected my health for some time.

My post that drew the Taliban couldn't have been more innocuous and positive. And obviously Kristen got attacked for using her own, informal voice--as if that isn't what blogging is all about.

I think much more should be done about them--and shame on the HuffPo for not protecting a contributor.

I'm very interested to hear what it was like meeting up with one of the trolls in person. I'm going to be teaching at a writers conference where one of the instigators of the pogrom against me will be sitting on a panel. I have no idea what I'll say to her. I suppose mostly I'll just try to avoid her like a pile of dog poo. I can't trust myself not to say what I think if I have to be in the same room with her.

Thanks so much for taking the time to tell us your story.

July 5, 2012 at 8:50 AM  

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