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Handling Porcupines, Trolls, and Other Online Vermin
January 31, 2005 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Handling Porcupines, Trolls, and Other Online Vermin
posted by redneck_zionist (39 comments total)

 
I hadn't seen that definition for Porcupine before, but it certainly fits some people I've come across online, including a certain new member around here.
posted by Doohickie at 11:45 AM on January 31, 2005


...if you're not careful, someone "31337" might decide to turn you into a toad.
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:57 AM on January 31, 2005


I found this an even-handed and well-written guide to dealing with the persistent problems that often come up in online discussions: people.
posted by TheNakedPixel at 12:19 PM on January 31, 2005


I have to agree with the first commenter on the "Porcupine" page.

Initial statement: “In order to do this, we need to hypothesize how we can recognize sentience, then test out this hypothesis with humans (and others which we accept as sentient).”

Porcupine response: “You’ve got the cart before the horse. You might as well say we are trying to determine how to recognize pain in computers. It doesn’t help to redefine pain to be something that might be operationally observable outside biological systems, because at that point you aren’t talking about “pain” any more. Or, rather, you can’t be sure you are.”

Now, this particular porcupine was probably only trying to voice disagreement with the premise of the original statement, and maybe even show a sense of humor. Unfortunately, the result was condescending.


"I couldn’t possibly disagree more. The response was direct, addressed the point with personal style, and didn’t condescend to the original poster by assuming she was incapable of adult discourse.

In fact, at risk of being branded a porcupine myself, I’ve gotta tell ya… you’re spreading the disease here, not the cure. By giving hypersensitive folks a justification for their feelings of distress at the first sign of intellectual conflict, you’re enabling the kind of pointless exchanges that it appears you’d like to avoid."
posted by ludwig_van at 12:30 PM on January 31, 2005


I've heard of trolls, but not porcupines. Once I read that definition, I thought of three people on other boards who fir that description. Can't wait to see the rest of the series.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:33 PM on January 31, 2005


This site's writer is pretty insightful and has some new (to me anyway) ideas and a fresh approach to an increasingly important subject. Thank you (redneck_zionist) for posting it. (Are you REALLY a redneck Zionist?)
posted by humannature at 12:43 PM on January 31, 2005


Upon hearing of porcupines, I immediately thought of a real life acquaintance. Although, I suppose I've seen more than a share on the Internet, as well.

As for whether the example was Porcupinirific, it did seem relatively innocuous - although not 100% cuddly. If I hadn't had my coffee that morning, I'd detect nastiness. It hinges quite a bit on how familiar these two people are to one another.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:50 PM on January 31, 2005


Oh it's all so clear now! Damn... sure wish I'd read this post a few months ago...
posted by miss lynnster at 12:58 PM on January 31, 2005


Metafilter: Porcupines, Trolls and Other Online Vermin.
posted by FYKshun at 1:00 PM on January 31, 2005


Amy Gahran has her work cut out for her if she wants to create a better online bestiary than this.

(I loooooove porcupines and their piquant prose)
posted by fleetmouse at 1:05 PM on January 31, 2005


This is actually kind of a sidenote, but has anyone else here noticed that any sentiment, any at all, will appear 10x more sarcastic and biting if transmitted electronically? I've found this is true even when the original sentiment contained next to no actual sarcasm at all.

I attribute a lot of "Porcupinisms" to this phenomenon. I mean, I know a lot of people who just have a generally sarcastic manner about them, but aren't malicious at all. However, if you were to take some of their everyday comments and post them on some sort of online forum, I'm sure they would sound like total jerks. (Especially if you didn't know them personally.)

The worst part is that we're basically stuck with this problem until someone finds a good way to convey vocal intonation in text form.

(And no, I don't count emoticons.)
posted by afroblanca at 1:07 PM on January 31, 2005


It's silly, weak and adolescently supercilious to claim that there's something wrong with people who say unpopular things and that they say those things only to generate discord. It's like claiming Iraqi insurgents shoot at U.S. troops occupying their country only because they don't approve of Madonna.
posted by davy at 1:09 PM on January 31, 2005


I'd suggest to the author that some "porcupines" are really just tired of the crappy logic that too many online comment threads point out. It is true that many people write pointed comments which hurt other people feelings.

It just goes to show you that those people with hurt feelings should never have made those stupid comments in the first place.

Humph.
posted by mooncrow at 1:22 PM on January 31, 2005


"[H]as anyone else here noticed that any sentiment, any at all, will appear 10x more sarcastic and biting if transmitted electronically?"

That might explain some negative reactions to some of my posts, but for me it's more the reverse -- I have trouble recognizing sarcasm that doesn't jump up and down hollering "This is SARCASM!"

But in general it does seem that negative reactions are easier and worse on Net fora.
posted by davy at 1:27 PM on January 31, 2005


Pigeon: someone who categorizes others into little boxes and exhorts others to do the same.
posted by Osmanthus at 1:30 PM on January 31, 2005


Nice categorization, there, Osmanthus...
posted by Doohickie at 1:39 PM on January 31, 2005


Oh it's all so clear now! Damn... sure wish I'd read this post a few months ago...

I sure wish you read the posting guidelines... sigh

:-0
posted by Dreamghost at 1:59 PM on January 31, 2005


The trackback to this blog did an excellent job of criticizing the definition of porcupine.

In Amy's internet, there would be no mean things said, no barbs slung, no technical terms, nary an acronym, just people smiling and singing happy songs. It is an Internet with Big Green Directional Arrows, Click Here buttons, safety rails, and training wheels. The soft walls are all painted the same color, and there is soothing background podcasts. It seems so safe, so sterile, that it makes one want to....

Not in my internet.


Couldn't have said it better myself.
posted by squeak at 2:14 PM on January 31, 2005


Oooh, that's hot! I heart Dreamghost. Especially when he sighs all sexy like that.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:19 PM on January 31, 2005


I found it interesting that the author went out of her way to compare the characteristics of online porcupines to real ones, but failed to describe the nature of actual trolls.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:29 PM on January 31, 2005


What can i say you make my tummy feel all funny...

xoxo
posted by Dreamghost at 2:50 PM on January 31, 2005


I'm with Ludwig_van and the commenter he quoted... the example porcupine's response seemed reasonable and not impolite to me.

Maybe I'm a porcupine, too.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 2:58 PM on January 31, 2005


I try my best, DG! You're fun!
posted by miss lynnster at 3:51 PM on January 31, 2005


Faint of Butt: I believe "troll" in this sense is not about the fairytale characters that live under bridges. More like "trolling", as in fishing, as in dragging bait behind your boat.
posted by notsnot at 3:54 PM on January 31, 2005


Faint of Butt: I believe "troll" in this sense is not about the fairytale characters that live under bridges. More like "trolling", as in fishing, as in dragging bait behind your boat.

Huhn. I always thought the term for that was "trawling".
posted by ShawnStruck at 5:05 PM on January 31, 2005


Shawnstruck: Trolling is when you use lines to drag the bait to attract the fish. Trawling is when you use the big nets to scoop up the fish. That's my pedantic post for the day.
posted by greasepig at 6:24 PM on January 31, 2005


Someone should also create a genus for the self-righteous ideologist who feels compelled to create more and more content for a greater and greater number of hits on their blaaahg. They could call it the "Blabber" or "Blahgger". It really needs to have that "blah" sound of forthcoming emesis which typifies the genus.
posted by Eideteker at 6:32 PM on January 31, 2005


Huh... and after I supported you in the early days, lynnster, I thought *I* was your special friend! </pout>
posted by Doohickie at 8:04 PM on January 31, 2005


Oh doohickie... I think I heart you most of all! ;)
posted by miss lynnster at 8:27 PM on January 31, 2005


Garsh!
</Goofy>
posted by Doohickie at 8:30 PM on January 31, 2005


Lynnster & Doohickey, get a fucking room. And don't mind the potted plant, that's only me.
posted by davy at 11:35 PM on January 31, 2005


Tact filters.
posted by Eideteker at 4:46 AM on February 1, 2005


The Online Etymology Dictionary on troll:
troll (v.)
1377, "to go about, stroll," later (c.1425) "roll from side to side, trundle," from O.Fr. troller, a hunting term, "wander, to go in quest of game without purpose," from a Gmc. source (cf. O.H.G. trollen "to walk with short steps"), from P.Gmc. *truzlanan. Sense of "sing in a full, rolling voice" (first attested 1575) and that of "fish with a moving line" (1606) are both extended technical applications of the general sense of "roll, trundle," the latter perhaps confused with trail or trawl. Fig. sense of "to draw on as with a moving bait, entice, allure" is from 1565. Meaning "to cruise in search of sexual encounters" is recorded from 1967, originally in homosexual slang.
posted by pracowity at 5:30 AM on February 1, 2005


I wouldn't dare get a room with lynnster. If she ever saw me irl, it would shatter all those obviously exaggerated fantasies she must have about me!
posted by Doohickie at 5:50 AM on February 1, 2005


That tact filters link sounds like the sort of thing a self-described awkward nerd might make up to explain a lack of social skills (it's not my fault I can't communicate, it's the fault of the people who picked on me when I was little). It could as easily have been that the future nerd started out tactless and therefore had few friends, and so had little choice but to do things alone (read, program, play video games, raise sea monkeys, etc.) and become the stereotypical nerd. The pain of "Hey, sea monkey boy!" could have come after the fact.
posted by pracowity at 6:01 AM on February 1, 2005


I'd never heard the term porcupines before reading this, but by god, it fits a few people I know.

Certainly it applies to a small gaggle of Mefites. My list of same might match yours.

Maybe not so small a gaggle, actually.
posted by chicobangs at 8:41 AM on February 1, 2005


I thought gaggles were geese. What do they call a group of porcupines? A pod, perhaps?
posted by Doohickie at 9:53 AM on February 1, 2005


Or, I suppose, a prickle.
posted by chicobangs at 10:40 AM on February 1, 2005


Shawnstruck: Trolling is when you use lines to drag the bait to attract the fish. Trawling is when you use the big nets to scoop up the fish. That's my pedantic post for the day.

Wow. Color me me corrected. Thank you for the edification; I had seriously wondered about the difference.
posted by ShawnStruck at 11:01 AM on February 1, 2005


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