|Billy Goat Gruff
As you clicked on the link to this bit, you were most likely thinking: how on earth can a piece about a fairy tale GOAT be in any way related to cycling humor? Well, of course the answer is: this piece isn't really about a GOAT; it's about a TROLL. Okay... so your next question is: ???
Yeah, yeah, I know... Well, the simple truth is this: no one who's ever subscribed to, or visited the archives of, the alt.rec.bicycles.recumbent Usenet newsgroup (ARBR - pronounced as the acronym 'arbor') will have even the slightest uncertainty or hesitation in making the connection. For those of you who aren't quite so familiar with this forum, Usenet is one of the oldest pieces of the internet (formerly know as DARPANET, then ARPANET, then Internet with a capital I, if you're REALLY picky about that sort of thing). In its most common form Usenet (formerly USENET) is sorta like a bunch of meeting rooms, arranged in a kind of hierarchal pyramid structure, where people who share a common interest can exchange email style messages which are then archived and available for anyone to read for an extended period. [Sort of like a (presumably) more tightly focused, low tech chat room with long-term record keeping, maybe...] Anyway, ARBR is the primary place at Usenet where folks can get together to share their thoughts and feelings about recumbent cycles.
The whole long, boring history of Usenet is readily available for anyone who cares, but for purposes of this piddly poem, probably all you need to know is that most of these groups are pretty much uncensored, unmoderated, and essentially unregulated. When they started, each forum had only a few members who were mostly technogeeks and who more or less kept each other in check, so the system worked fairly well. Then the online BOOM came along, thousands of folks tried to hook up in some of the groups, and fifteen minutes later many of them deteriorated into utter CHAOS.
Most of the surviving forums are plagued with a variety of problems, the worst of which may be a TROLL. That inet buzzword would probably be defined as a member who has made it his personal obsession to stake out the group, and to personally challenge any other member or message that for whatever perverse (and often obscure) reason hits his own quirky little hot button. TROLLS will often reply to almost every message or thread that is posted, sometimes arguing or disputing, sometimes sniping about format, spelling and/or grammar, and/or often accusing other writers of mental deficiency, emotional instability, sexual deviancy or maybe even dietary depravity. TROLLS are usually highly prolific and very proficient at alienating active or potential members who are intimidated by the threat of social conflict; they are not at all good for any newsgroup.
Why and/or how does anyone become a TROLL? The basic bottom line is this: They are almost always guys with major ego problems; more than anything else they seem to insist upon just being noticed. So, you may ask, if they have overblown egos, why aren't they motivated to be nice and make everyone respect them, or at least like them a little? Well, I think it may be because most of them are either seriously hung up on themselves, or more likely may be overcompensating for (probably very well-founded) fears of inadequacy. In any case, they refuse to risk placing any value on the opinions of anyone who might dare to disagree with them on any subject, much less their own out of control sense of self-importance. In fact, almost all TROLLS make a big issue of insisting they don't care about being liked, which perhaps not too coincidentally, more or less also means that they are, by their own internal standards, pretty much invulnerable to any complaints or criticisms from their (sub)peers.
Is there anything that can be done when a TROLL plops himself into a newsgroup? Well, the 'solution' that is most often tried is a very agressive direct head-to-head confrontation. That's virtually doomed to failure, because in the first place what most TROLLS want most is more attention. Typically, they also seem to feel that being attacked gives them even greater license to clutter up the archives with their banal blabbering. Strictly speaking, as far as having any truly positive effect, about the best thing that can be done with a TROLL is to meticulously ignore it, which in internet speak is: DON'T FEED THE TROLL. But of course, that's not much fun, and a lot of those little kids who could never resist making faces at caged primates are now members of Usenet forums.
But why, you may wonder, do TROLLS bother communicating with other folks for whom they very clearly have absolutely no respect, and typically at least (by their own verbose assertions) feel little more than a demeaning indifference? Ask one of them. The only answer I can come up with is that they're TROLLS. Why does a neutered tomcat sometimes still spray living room furniture? I mean, after all:
|Billy Goat Gruff
Here's a parable written in rhyme
* * * * *
If a newsgroup's a bridge... there's a toll.
Once a TROLL has made up its hard head
Every now and again some poor sheep,
Or there might be a frisky young ram,
In the end, though, the ram will get tired,
Then one day there's a grumpy old goat,
As the TROLL grabs the goat, it reads 'CEASE!'
While the TROLL stands there choking and blind,
* * * * *
There is no way to kill an old TROLL.
Is there anything nice folks can do
If there's truly a heaven and HELL,
Last updated Jan 13 2007