SBC Voices is unique in the blogging community. We are an informational clearinghouse for Baptist blogs (our feed), a social network and a blue-collar blog. No blogging royalty here, we are every-Baptists and most of our names are known only within the SBC Voices community. But here at SBC Voices, people can have their say on Baptist-related issues and everyone else gets to comment on what is said. We have Calvinists, non-Calvinists, traditionalists and contemporarians and every other variety of Southern Baptist voices represented. We are probably a little more rowdy than some are comfortable with (and a little calmer than a few would like!). If you read SBC Voices for a month, I guarantee you will read some articles you will like and a few that make you mad.
That is the nature of our blog – we are wide-open blogging community. This is not davemiller.com or anyone else’s personal blog. We are many voices talking together about SBC-related topics.
Troll: someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.
We all have a little of the troll in us (and that is part of being a blogging community). We throw in a sports reference or a political reference or some personal comment that sends us down a rabbit trail, then we move back to the topic of the post. No discussion remains completely focused, so that’s not a problem. Go for it – that is who we are. Sometimes I set up forums for certain topics so we can focus our sports talk or our politics on those and keep them off the other posts. But a little bit of banter adds to the discussion and does not take away from it. There is a reason why they call these discussions “streams.” They wind around, veering left and right. Each discussion has a sort of flow. Someone says something which introduces another topic which leads to something else. That is natural, normal and even desirable.
But trolling, I’m afraid, is something of a problem here. I have noticed three or four particular kinds of trolls.
The TULIP Troll – wears either Calvin or anti-Calvin sunglasses. No matter what we are talking about, the TULIP troll has a way of tying it back to either promoting or disdaining Calvinism.
The Booze Troll – again, some of them are complete teetotallers and some of them are infrequent imbibers. But the Booze trolls twist posts into an argument over whether it is okay for Christians to sip a little wine now and again.
The CR Troll – this one wears bell bottoms, leisure suits and listens to disco, because he is stuck in the late 70s. For him, everything comes back to conservative resurgence in the SBC, when our drift toward liberal theology was reversed. Southern Baptists today are a conservative bunch. We believe in inerrancy and in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, but we’ve moved on – we’ve got bigger concerns about what is going on in 2012 in the SBC than what happened in 1979. Now, there are a few conservative CR trolls around who question the conservative bona fides of anyone who disagrees on them. If you don’t see eye to eye with this fella, you must be liberal. But there area quite a few anti-CR trolls around. (Less now, since I banished a couple of them). All the CR troll wants to talk about is the supposed injustice done by conservatives to moderates and liberals 30 years ago. He wears rose colored glasses, seeing the pre-CR past as a Baptist utopia and the moderate faction as peaceful, kind folks chopped to pieces by the mean and angry fundamentalists. And that is all he wants to talk about.
Unique Trolls – some people live in their own little world and whatever the topic, they want to talk about their own preferred subject. We’ve had some personal vendetta trolls who only really log on to personally attack someone who gets under their skin. And we have some who have a particular hobby horse they want to ride.
I’ll be honest, blog trolling kinda ticks me off.
Here’s the thing – we address all these subjects from time to time. There is a post that references Calvinism in some way here several times a week. You should be able to get your fix of promoting or bashing Calvinism here without letting it invade every single discussion. And, just because someone mentions someone who is a Calvinist, that does not mean that we have to go into full fight mode on the subject. Alcohol gets brought up from time to time. We seldom write about the CR, except as a historical reference and as it affects modern day events.
Another thing – I accept submissions. If you can string three sentences together with a modicum of logic and simple grammatical sense, I will post your article. If you are a Southern Baptist and have something you want to say, we will give you a forum (within reason of course). The other side of that is that we get a lot of traffic through here. Yesterday, we had 3350 page views at Voices. It was a higher than average day, but nothing out of the normal. People read and they respond. Articles generate a certain amount of heat. Remember the old saw about the heat and the kitchen? Fair warning.
My point is, if you have something to say, I’ll give you a chance to say it (again, within limits). But please don’t say it on someone else’s post unless that is the subject. Let’s not turn every post into a Calvinism ruckus or a moderationist brouhaha.
Of course, those of you who are feeling bad about this right now are probably the folks who AREN’T THE PROBLEM. Trolls are generally not concerned about what others think, just getting their own ideas out.
How do you know if you are a troll, or at least exhibiting some troll-like behaviors. Here are some questions.
- Did you read the post BEFORE you started commenting, or just look at the title and jump into the stream?
- Read several of your comments. Are you saying the same thing over and over again?
- Do you ask a lot of rhetorical questions not designed to gain information, but to lead the discussion in a direction you want it to go?
- Check your comments and the topic of the post. Is there any logical or theological connection between them?
(Again, there’s nothing wrong with an anecdote, a short side trip on a rabbit trail or a few personal references here or there – this is a social network as well as a blog. But if you find yourself always talking about Calvinism on posts that have nothing to do with Calvinism, you may not be a redneck, but you might be a troll.
Here’s my problem: I simply don’t have much time to moderate comments here and everyone who comments here is a grown up. I’m asking you to police yourselves. Again, the people that are feeling bad here are probably not the people who I’m asking to change. I don’t want to stifle debate or limit discussion. That’s why we are here.
But I’d like to encourage all of us to work just a little harder at keeping focused and on topic.
If a debate gets off topic, I usually give a reminder that we’ve wandered off too far in some direction.
People who continually try to steer debate off topic, who troll our comment streams, find one of two things happening. Some get blocked. I’ve only done this twice, but it was for the same reason. Two men simply would not comment on topic. They ignored the author’s intent and they tried to steer every discussion off-topic. They got blocked and are no longer allowed to comment here. By the way, it is amazing how blocking trolls increases the quality of discussion at a blog!
I also put some who consistently comment off topic or try to steer the debate onto their issues instead of the authors on comment moderation. But I hate doing that. That’s work for me and I’m lazy at heart! I have to review every comment and decide whether to post it or not. It’s a pain and I’d rather not do it.
So, the best bet for me is just a simple request to each of you to try to stay on topic. Let’s not argue the “doctrines of grace” unless that’s the topic of the post. Let’s only discuss the CR if it is raised as a central issue in a post. Let’s abstain from even moderate discussions of alcohol unless that’s the topic. Make sure that your comment relates to the topic the author wrote about (or if you take a little side trip to sports or whatever, make it a brief one). Most of all, respect the author. It takes time to write a post, even one you disagree with. Respect the time and effort and discuss the topic of the post or the issues raised in it.
Frankly, there aren’t more than a handful of trolls in the Voices community. Most of the folks who comment here join in the fun and frolic well. But if each of us will take an anti-troll pill (I think M&Ms work best) and watch yourself just a little, then I can work on the bigger trolls myself.
(I just realized something – this post mentions Calvinism, the CR and alcohol. Wow. This could get ugly.)
Rules for discussion:
1) Comments that name others as trolls will be immediately deleted. Such commenters will be shot (with a rubber band in New Orleans in June).
2) Let’s talk about trolling and commentings and such, not Calvinism, alcohol or the CR, okay? Pretty please? With sugar on it?