Thursday, August 6, 2009

On Learning A Lesson I Already Know.

The Fremont Troll, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.

Don't feed the trolls. It's one of the mantra's of good internet use. I know it's good advice. It's advice I give easily. It's advice I take less easily. I am a foolish man.

It seems to me that it's really easy to work out whether online behaviour is acceptable or not. Imagine saying it in a bar. There are loads of musicians I like, loads I'm not so fussed about and some I really just don't get. That's true for all of us.

Imagine seeing a musician you're not really in to at a local bar. Would you approach them and - without even saying hello - say, "I thought your last album was shit."

Only a mannerless oaf would do so. And the musician would be well within their rights to tell them to sling their hook if it happened. But for some reason, people who in their day to day life manage to be courteous to others aren't always the same on the internet. Whether it's the inherent anonymity or the distance or something else I couldn't tell you. It's sort of like playing knock-and-run only it's played by grown ups. (Come to think of it, I was always too scared to play knock-and-run as a kid. That and I didn't really get the joke. (Ha ha ha... they opened their door! Huh?))

Anyway, when someone indulges in this behaviour, deep down they know they're being impolite and out of line and they want to provoke a reaction. The correct advice is always to ignore them. If it's on a service like Twitter, block them. You'd move to a different bar if it happened in real life, there's no rule that says you have to let just-anyone talk to you... so choose not to engage. In short; don't feed the trolls.

This morning I fed a troll. He sent me a message last night saying that something I'd done was shit. It's obviously not a nice thing to read but I'm thick skinned enough to not be upset by it... I'm more fascinated by the idea that someone is sitting somewhere thinking, "Oh look, it's that bloke I've never met. I'll send him an insult." I just don't quite get it.

But when I looked at his Twitter stream it became obvious that he'd spent quite a lot of time trolling other people in the same way. And at least one person had blocked him. That person was Paul Daniels. I know this because the troll was boasting about having been blocked by the 71 year old conjuror. From the trolls point of view it seemed as though being blocked was enough of a reaction. To him it was a sign of temper. I suspect in truth it was a sign of calm.

Somehow I decided for myself that simply blocking him would be in effect feeding this particular troll because he had taken it upon himself to celebrate such things. So instead, I decided to calmly point out his rudeness. I sent him a tweet that firstly corrected one of his factual errors, then accepted that he hadn't liked something but that others had and ended with the words, "long distance, internet heckling is for cocks." I know I shouldn't have done. But, well, it's not exactly hardcore abuse and it is really a comment on his impolite behaviour more than anything else. (It's also true.)

I shouldn't really have done that. And having done that I should have left it there. But he replied and I replied and I'm pretty sure the whole thing was pretty undignified. But along the way I thought a small victory was being won. Not me against him. I mean a small victory for politeness.

Because he started to reconfigure what he'd said. Suddenly, starting a conversation with "that series you did was shit" wasn't an insult at all. And actually he did like some of my other stuff he'd just tried to express an opinion about a show. And I had to learn to take stuff on the chin. Which was weird because I felt like that's exactly what I was doing. And then he asked if we could put it all behind us.

And I felt glad that he seemed to have accepted that while he was of course perfectly entitled to his opinion his lack of manners in expressing it was the issue. I should have put it all behind me. By just blocking him. Which I did. But because I was aware that a few people were now following the childish spat, I didn't just block him... I said so. Because I wanted those people to know that it was dealt with.

I also figured that he wouldn't really be able to boast about being blocked as he had done before because he'd just asked if we could put the matter behind us.

But I was wrong. Because a troll needs to feel victorious. Attention is what they crave. And I'd just given him a big dose. And instead of feeling contrite for having his rudeness pointed out to him (what was I thinking?) he decided that being blocked was a sign that I'd really taken the whole thing to heart. Silly, silly me. Why don't I just sit there and let a stranger insult me... have I no balls at all! Tsk!

Anyway... I know I did the wrong thing. If you were one of the people watching the thing pan out, I apologise for allowing myself to get dragged into something so childish.

Next time I'll block. And let whoever it is feel like they've got to me. Because the lesson is surely that they're going to decide to feel like that whether I block them or not.

And I knew that yesterday just as surely as I know it now. For a couple of minutes this morning I thought I'd tamed a troll. Lesson learned. There are many things that Paul Daniels does better than me. I didn't imagine that handling trolls was one of them. Darn.


Nic said...

I hate rude people online. I always think, "Would you say that to someone's face?"

Anyway, do you realise you've just dedicated a whole blog post to this bloke? I bet he'll have a field day if he finds out!

Adam said...

Dave, that's all well and good but that series (whatever it was) that you did was shit. ;)

Elliott Galloway said...

David, would you have reacted differently had you received something like this?

"Hi there pal, am a big fan of most of your work but have just got through your US thing. I found it unevenly paced, derivative and much less interesting than the concept initially sounded. I thought Steven Fry's was much better."

Your analogy of the musician in a bar would still hold but you've made the decision to put yourself on Twitter so you'd be a bit out of order moaning about it I think.

And just so you know, I haven't seen the US thing you did but I am a big appreciator of what you do.

Garp said...

Trolls: proof positive that not enough chlorine is being used in the gene pool.

Chris said...

I don't think you need worry about dedicating a blog post to him. In fact, I think better of you for it.

As someone who probably still thinks he's one of the few to have read 'Are You Dave Gorman?' - I was a bit disappointed that you fed the troll. Maybe people in the public eye aren't meant to be real people, and aren't allowed to make mistakes. Anyway, it did appear to be a bit pretentious.

Having said that, I'm just as bad, with less public appeal.

But - nice blog post, well done, carry on etc. Nothing anyone says makes a difference to.. er... anything really, but kudos, or something.


Grethic said...

Good post points well made, great picture and will try to remind you not too if you start putting people in boxes and running swords through them; there is a conjurer who does it much better :)

Dave Gorman said...

@Elliott Galloway: I don't think Twitter would be the right place for it because it's not a 1 to 1 dialogue. But I have had friendly dialogue on e-mail with people who've offered well meant criticism in that way, yes.

Chris said...

It's never fun realising that you have been dragged into something and there is no way to get out of it, without losing face in some way or another.

Perhaps you should have turned the other cheek? But what do I know? Thankfully I don't have people leaving me messages telling me that the spreadsheet I put together is shit.

(The fact that putting an Excel spreadsheet together being the only thing I could think of as an example of my job is, I suspect, punishment enough.)

Anyway, here is the real question. Do trolls know that they are trolls? Maybe they see themselves as internet martyrs, getting blocked by celebrities and the like , but not before getting their opinion across?

Maybe you should set up a new Twitter account and heckle him about his heckles 'Man, I liked your Gorman diss, but that Paul Daniel cuss was shit, bro'?

Daria said...

It is always hard for a nice and decent person to spar with a rude and insensitive one and feel as though they've come out on top, even when they have. Take heart, he has been thrown away like yesterday's smelly garbage, not to been seen or heard from again. Let him pollute someone else's timeline. At least we've been warned.

Bluntwordz said...

Internet trolls remind me of the idiots who think they are invincible when they get behind the wheels of a car. Somehow it empowers the cowards, as they certainly wouldn't act like that face to face.

Pam said...

I've never understood why people carry on like this.

I've worked as a vicar and it does happen in real life to vicars quite a lot - maybe not quite the same term of phrase but no end of people will take you on for your views, your appearance, where you shop etc. Maybe there's that same feeling of 'you put yourself out there so you deserve all you get.' Erm, no you don't!

Anonymous said...

You're just so ~srs bsns~ on Twitter, I think it makes you an exceptionally easy target. This isn't the first time a troll has got a response from you, it's hardly surprising others are trying it. Everyone gets trolled; few engage them.

And now a blog. Way to prove how much you don't care, dude!

I'm a huge fan of your work and all, I just think you can come off looking a bit ridiculous on Twitter. It's the internet, who cares, you know?

Sophia said...

Personally I just found it hilarious that after that he tried the 'I think we have got off on the wrong foot, fresh start?' sort of angle...most likely the trolling was just a massively bizarre way of trying to build rapport. I suppose even a disagreement with a celebrity is better to some than not appearing on said celebrity's radar at all. Though once you've reached that level of pathetic it is probably time to seriously reconsider some key aspects of your life.

Also, I think you handled it fine. You shouldn't have to censor how you react to someone just because you're a well-known personality, or because 'you put yourself out there so expect things like this!'. Politeness never hurt anyone. Or at least not on Twitter.

ToftonM said...

In Hull knock-and-run was always called knock-off-ginger, looking back this was rather wrong on many levels!

thejabberwocky6 said...

Just thought i'd say i thought the US thing... or America Unchained for the idiots who can't even be bothered to make a decent critical comment by having the decency to do the slightest bit of research and find out what your "Us thing" was by looking to the right of your blog page that they just commented on....was brilliant! The book too! Funnily enough i wasn't the biggest fan of Mrs Merton!

aramando said...

I certainly wouldn't blame you for reacting, Dave, I'm sure I would have done the same thing. I really struggle to understand people who deliberately behave like cocks, which leaves me ill-equipped to deal with them in an appropriate manner. I always mistakenly assume trolls are naturally cock-like and are just being themselves (although anyone who raises their level of cockish behaviour on purpose to piss people off is by definition already a bona-fide cock by nature).

Anyway, something that helped me get my head around these strange types was this fascinating (but mind-bending) article about extreme trolls on the New York Times website:

Chris S said...

We used to play "knock down ginger" in the red light area. Oh the thrill we got seeing the door opened by a working girl in a nightie.

A bit embarassing - but at least there was a slight point to it - however desperate it now seems.

Keep up the good work. Sadly I fear a lot of popular twitterers are going to be driven away from communicating due to the thoughtless few.

Monkey1 said...

I saw the exchange this morning and was going to tweet then - but thought better of it as he would have seen my post and that would have been even more feeding.

As many have already said, I just don't get why some people act like that ...


Dave said...

I've noticed this sort of thing with other well known people I follow on Twitter - particularly those based over in the USA. It seems that they're pretty much exclusively attention seekers who try & provoke a response from people like you & then bleat on about it remorselessly for the benefit on anyone who'll listen.

They seem to be bullies who wouldn't dare behave this way in the real world, but choose to hide behind the anonymity of the internet to indulge in their unacceptable behaviouir in a way which they know can never result in any true comeback against themselves. In short, a bunch of very sad people.

blougher said...

I've seen others fall for it recently. Chris Moyles for example and Paul Daniels fell for the same troll as you did.

Someone tweeted you during the day to block them and worry about it later. He was right. You're a celeb man whether you like it or not. You're performing - you're on

Elliott Galloway said...

@Elliott Galloway: I don't think Twitter would be the right place for it because it's not a 1 to 1 dialogue. But I have had friendly dialogue on e-mail with people who've offered well meant criticism in that way, yes.

That's cool David, I'm more interested in how folks of note such as yourself view their digital life. I personally believe Twitter can be a 1 to 1 dialogue sometimes.

One good thing to come of this is hopefully that some people who hadn't seen it will watch the show. I certainly will.

Matt Gardner said...

I've wasted many an hour responding to stuff like that and while it feels like you're doing the right thing, you end up feeling a bit hollow. With the moral high ground already achieved, each comment simply dumps another warm bucket of water on the sugar pedestal you have to elevate yourself above them.

Good call, Dave. You did it much earlier than other people have in the past, myself included.

One constructive criticism: Danny Wallace should've been your cameraman in the US, to avoid the health problems of your co-pilot (plus he has a kind face).

Dave Gorman said...

@Anonymous: I'm afraid I am a ridiculous arse. It's part of the whole package. You can't have the shows and books and stuff and not have the ridiculous arse who writes them.

I believe that celebrity is in the eye of the beholder and that when one starts to see it in oneself it is the onset of some kind of madness. And a lot of my shows (although not my stand-up) have been about the fact that it isn't just a performance... it's a true story about something that actually matters to me. I'm fairly sure the shows would have been shit if they were contrived and self-consciously wacky tales. (Mind you, I'm also aware that a lot of people think that's exactly what they are and it's in debating those issues that I'm guessing some of what you term srs bsns rears its head.)

Some people want me to be the wacky-namesake-hunting-loon that capsule reviews tell them I am. I could have made a lot of money by pretending to be looking for every Dave Gorman in the world and playing up to that cartoonish image. I chose not to. I think it would have obviously been hollow and fake and it would have made the true story appear to be fake also. And I'm proud of that show and book and would hate for that to happen.

So like I say, you can't have just the show and not have me going all srs bsns on yo'ass about it... because that's where the show actually came from. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Just block em in future, has to be easier than even wasting time with a worm like that. And by the way, I really enjoyed that america unchained thing. Your car was great :D

aaronboardley said...

...and now you've written a blog post about him? You've just fed him a feast!

Gwen said...

Well, don't get me started on rudeness and bad manners. I speak as a secondary school teacher who deals with that one a daily basis - except, of course the blissful 6 week holiday but I digress.

We live in a 'I know my rights' culture but clearly 'trolls' grasp of that priviledge (not a right) of 'free speech' misintepret what that actually means and the reasonably intelligent know that 'free speech' is a but a notion rather than an actuality.

We can, thank god express out opinions without being executed however that doesn't give us the right to behave like rude, ignorant trolls.

As I re-iterate very frequently, 'Good manners cost nothing.'

Rant over I think....

GUS B said...

Dave, you're missing one small detail in your recent Twitter battle. The troll mentioned a tweet you did the other day about people sending you quips about your computer issues and that you didn't appreciate it. I to remember when I read that tweet thinking it was a touch dick-ish and not like you. If you have computer problems dude, go on a computer forum don't post about it on twitter. I was close to doing the dreaded unfollow I was that shocked by it. You came across as truly smarmy and superior. It was like you were saying "leave the jokes to the experts you idiots".

In my mind, the troll was responding to that in his own, slightly rambling way. He thought you were fair game. Like Moyles and Daniels who do occassionally become tweet-angry he thought you were someone he could have a go at and was fair game.

What you've done here is good, you've had time to think about it, you've blogged your thoughts and expressed your regret over what was quite a nasty incident. I'm sorry mate but for a spell this morning you were bullying the guy. Just ignore the haters, and get back to telling us about your cylce rides etc. GUSMAN

Matthew said...

We are in strange and interesting times, this stuff is new and clearly some people get over excited by it. I certainly didn't do any of this psychopathic networking until Twitter. I don't need to rehearse the whole attention seeking speech, you know that - and let's face it, even though no one will read this, that is why I am writing now.

Glinner once did a twit that he had been twitting without wireless and no one was reading his stuff. But for most of us that is business as usual - a wall of silence. So people push buttons in order to get a reaction.

Like me I am sure you have witnessed the likes of Jupitus, Glinner and Ronson have similar stand offs and I suspect this is the result of having a sleeve bound heart. But ultimately it is that vulnerability which makes you human and it is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

Sophia said...

'I'm sorry mate but for a spell this morning you were bullying the guy'

I don't think that's accurate, really. Twitter is public so obviously we can't pretend that anyone has any more right than another to say things. The troll does have just as much right as Dave did to say his opinion. But still, I'd say that a) by bringing up the subject and b) by doing it on *Dave's* Twitter page, the troll brought any reaction upon himself. Him and Dave were both equally capable of dropping the subject at any point but I have far less sympathy for the troll in this situation. He's the one who started the whole shebang, after all.

Anonymous said...

It is I @eggmysta. I don't know how to prove it is actually me. Perhaps someone will pull me up on my spelling.

Firstly I would like to explain my actions. Now as I did say I am a big fan of 90% of Dave's work. But for some reason I didn't take to unchained. I just didn't like it. Can't really explain why but there you go. I think alot of you are right including you Dave on. Why did I need to bring this up with you. The answer is to be honest I'm not sure. For some reason I felt the need to inform Dave about my dislike for the show. I think it is down to the fact e annoyed me earlier in the day when if I remember rightly he asked for computer advice. Then had a moan regarding smart ass comments from people. I just thought why ask then. Your a comedian of course people are gonna tweet back funny comments. It goes with the deal surely.

I do stand by comments regarding unchained tho. I still think it was shit. But someone did point out to
me to watch it again and my opinion might change. So I will give it ago.

What really annoyed me today was the abuse of fan boys and Dave Gorman fanatics. Ok messenger me back saying I disagree with you on his show I thought it was good. Which a few did. But abuse about spelling (iPhone) and other complete crap was out of order.

I'm more than happy to speak to you Dave if you want to. To have a chat about this. Other wise it's over

Dave Gorman said...

@GUS B: I really do think that was down to the frailties of the 140 character limit and people filling in the gaps for themselves.

People were effectively saying "if your computers broken, why do you expect us to fix it, call someone"... which is exactly what I had done and exactly what I had said in my initial tweet. I hadn't asked for help.

"If you have computer problems dude, go on a computer forum don't post about it on twitter."

Well yes... but wouldn't that be the end of Twitter. Because then it follows that "If you're hungry go to a restaurant don't post about it on twitter and if you're in the mood for a film, go to the cinema don't post about it on twitter and if you're lonely go out and find someone to talk to don't post about it on twitter and..." and so on.

Twitter is full of the trivia of people's daily lives. I'm under no illusion that it was profound... but I'll bet every single one of the people who wrongly assumed that I was asking them for help has tweeted something equally trivial.

Anyway... it seemed to me to be an innocent post that was misinterpreted that led to abuse that came at a stressful time and so on. When I complained about it, my tone of voice (as it were) was - in my mind - ach, this is actually kind of stressful, go easy - but obviously as so many people took it another way I failed in that as well. But I think that's because people were still thinking that I'd asked for help and so had somehow brought it on myself.

Heigh ho.

Angela said...

David, you were having an off-day mate.
We all go over the top sometimes; your misfortune is that you had a whole troupe of followers hanging on your every reaction (myself included). For the record, I also thought the computer problem Tweet was a bit huffy.
That said, who cares really; you work hard, you're really quite funny sometimes and I imagine you have a sane and comfortable personal life - let's all move on.

Dave Gorman said...

For what it's worth, the original post that led to all the "how dare you ask for help" confusion was as follows:
My computer keeps dying. The power cuts out after an hour's use. I've called a man who knows about these things. Gulp. Hope it's okay.

Anonymous said...

Firstly I must say that your original computer tweet deserved no accusations of "why are you asking for help?" because there was no such request. I thought it was quite a funny tweet if I'm honest, just based on the "man who knows", I live by the attitude "call the guy". I definitely don't see where any whinging there is called for.

All I really posted to comment was that an ideal way to win the situation would have been to ignore him, not block nor reply, and just pretend that in the mirade of tweets you get a day you hadn't seen that one. Think it takes care of all aspects, no food for the hungry troll, as it were.

L-Jo said...

I watched it. You didn;t look daft. He looked like a 10 year old looking for some attention from someone with a bit more to say than he really had.

If you can't say anything nice - don't say anything at all; becuase if you do you'll look like a tit.

L-Jo said...

..humble apologies for the typos. A day at the British Beer Festival doesn't equate to decent typing.

Still, that lad was a bit of a wally.

Plenihimun said...

I was indeed watching it unfold and I believe you did exactly what I would have done (pretty much).
The only thing I think you did wrong was not blocking him as soon as you had issued your retort.
I think it's important that you let as many people as possible within the greater Twitter community know exactly what sort of wanker this fellow is, lest any of us fall foul of his wicked heckle-trap schemes.

In other words: Thanks for the heads-up.

Alison Walker said...

I work in retail and we often get disgruntled customers - one even called me a c**t just because we didn't have the item they were after - all this after I went out of my way to find every other item that we stocked along the same lines of what they were looking for. The customer had 2 of her friends/family with her at the time. My reaction? I simply said "well you do not have to shop here in future if you feel that way." Her response? "Don't worry I won't" Two days later she was back in the shop, alone this time, and once again I served her, this time no trouble, no swearing. I made me wonder was it because she never got a slanging match the first time, if I had reacted with something like"Who the f**k do you think you are talking to me like that?" etc. etc. would she have simply walked out the shop like she did and 2 days later return like nothing had happened.
I always tell my 11 year old son to ignore bullies - if they are trying to bully you just ignore them. One thing a bully doesn't like is being ignored.
My point to this post? I'm not really sure but the type of person I am I would have dealt with this troll in the same way. I would have let them have their rant, and not even acknowledged that I had read the tweet. Of course they would have sent another saying more or less same thing and that why have I not replied. Ignore that aswell, and just to really get to them I would have replied to Joe Randomers tweets just to prove that I do reply to tweets just selective ones. He would have gone away himself eventually and without provoking you to react the way he had wanted all along.

Not even sure if this post makes sense, not even gonna re-read cosI'll be here forever trying to get my point across and probably make it twice as long to read. Anyway simply put you should have ignored him Dave.
Much love I think your work is great, and gutted I can't see you on your cycling tour.

seast said...

Dave - it was a lose lose for you either way.

If you just blocked him he'd have have just crowed about it. If you responded - well that was what happened.

I guess just blocking him was the least bad option.

Gary said...

Having recently starting to follow you on twitter. I was shocked but not supprised by the troll. It does appear so covinient to stay hidden on these social sites.
As someone has already said he will eat out on this and other stories of people like yourself who he has trolled.
Thinking about it he will probably eat in alone.
Keep up the good work and dont let the b*****d`s grind you down

Chris Nixon said...

You've just got to let these things go. Being principled on the net often comes across as being nyarky (TN Chris Nixon), as well as contributing to stomach ulcers when others don't share your principles.

I've fallen into the trap myself. It's not good.

Noel(le) said...

The point is was did he make the comment to inform you, or rather to inform others he was informing you?

Anonymous said...

Dave, bested by Paul Daniels... What's going on?

It's just like the most polite person in the room getting into a car and undergoing a transformation worthy of David Banner, because of the seperation metal and glass implies.

Look on the bright side through... You could be Peter Andre!