Comment Phishing: why bloggers should feel better about Internet trolls

There's a group of us Chicago Now bloggers who participate in an online forum where we talk to each other about all things blogging. A lot of the time it's technical issues, or sometimes how our softball team did (really well until NPR trounced them in the finals) or our latest get-together. (A City Mom has never once been spotted dancing on the bar, most likely because I've never been able to attend; they wisely have conspired to hold them when I am out of town.) Lately however, the conversation has turned to blog comments. You know, the really mean kind made by Internet trolls.

For A City Mom (117 Facebook Likes) to listen to other bloggers (175,000 Facebook Likes, ahem.) complain about the one or two mean comments they received in their latest comment thread, which go on for miles btw (my all-time comment record is 20), is a little like listening to the king complain he has too many subjects, or hearing the queen complain she has too many servants.

But lest you think I am heartless and only jealous of these other insanely popular bloggers, we shall get to my point, finally. Comment Phishing. And the fact that, unbeknownst to me, I was harboring two comment phishermen in my basement.

My sons first mentioned the term comment phishing to me and I don't know if they coined it or just heard it somewhere. I did know what phishing was and I immediately inferred what comment phishing is. Kyle helped: "Oh, you just know exactly who you're going to bait with each type of comment you post."

"Wait a minute," I thought. "I have trolls in my basement?"

My sons surf the net, sure. They're really smart and insightful. Great. They read CNN and other news websites and apparently, as I came to find out, enjoyed leaving comments. But not insightful, intelligent comments. No. They went comment phishing.

"If you write a really conservative comment, you know you're going to snag some irate liberal who'll rant at you. And if you phrase a liberal comment just the right way, you get all the conservatives down your throat."

Apparently, this is great fun for them. Or, at least it was until I put a stop to it. "You guys, us writers read those comments and we take them seriously! It's mean to anonymously take people down just for spite."

In the five-year history of A City Mom, I can count on one hand the mean or hateful comments I've received. Actually, I can practically count on one hand all the comments I've received. Yet, I feel fortunate for this: the first part, not the latter. Still, it doesn't take away the sting of having someone viciously attack me personally or my opinion or my humor. No, the only thing that was able to do that is--and this is what I want to share with all my fellow bloggers, with their high-class-too-many-commenter-problems, because I genuinely want them to never, ever again fret over any anonymous Internet troll's hate--is the fact that the angry commenter could be, and probably is, nothing more than a comment phisherman, a thirteen-year-old boy in his mother's basement.

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  • I totally needed to read your post today as I have been obsessing about my two negative comments, especially when I can also count my total comments on both hands (yes, two hands for me 'cause I have a great mother who always comments).
    My first negative comment was so poorly written that it was almost a badge of honor. The second one made me cry. So, I drank too much with some friends and saw a really bad movie. Now, I will gleefully imagine a 13 year old troll sitting in his/her basement.
    Have a wonderful day!

  • In reply to soontobehotmama:

    Thank you, soontobehotmama! You're response is exactly what I was hoping for when I wrote this.
    I swear, ever since I caught my sons, it was like having an epiphany. Along the lines of giving a speech and visualizing the audience in its underwear. Now, whenever a commenter tries to rub me the wrong way, I just imagine it's either a phisherman, or phisherwoman, or some punk kid in his basement.

  • At least Kevin O'Neil knows that anytime he mentions anything official from the CTA, and especially Forrest Claypool (the modern day Forrest Gump), he'll get a reaction from me and Scooter. Since he said he is getting paid, the click count can't hurt.

    However, since most other Chicago Now bloggers say that they aren't getting paid, is comment phishing working for you?

  • Loved this. I can count on one finger the number of comments I have generated! While reading this I was thinking send your phishers my way! I now have new admiration for trolls! Your kids a priceless:)

  • Loved this, Kim!! Thank you.
    It's funny - I remember one nasty comment in particular that I once got and it was from someone who has eventually become a CN blogger! Haven't met him at any of the tweet ups though. Maybe he's not old enough to drink!

  • In reply to FernRonay:

    Hmmm, Gwil, if I had to take a wild guess? I'd love to hear his take on this!
    Thanks, FernRonay!

  • After being on internet fishing forums for 15 years, you get to see all kinds of stupid things said. It became a game to bait people. It's fun in an odd way and I'm 55.

    What happens after all these years is that you don't take anything seriously that anyone says on the internet.

    Along come bloggers. They think they actually have something worthwhile to say and people will love every minute of it. Maybe, but I doubt it. Why do you think I write about fishing. Nobody really cares.

    I put a post up the other day making fun of Republicans. It was fun. It got the response I wanted. In the long run, doesn't matter.

    That's the interesting thing about the internet. 99.99% of people will never read what you have to say and the other .01% will completely forget about what you said and even who you are within 48 hours. That's just the way it works and there's nothing you can do about it.

  • In reply to Ken G:

    Ken, are you trying to bait me with this comment that I disagree with 100 percent?

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    Just my experience based on fishing forums and fishing blogs Mr. Jimmy. I've only been doing a blog for a year. It's a little different, but not much. I know how I go about reading other blogs, but maybe that's me.

    Baiting you? Phishing for your opinion perhaps, now that you brought it up. Had a conversation about you with my friend Mr. Bowman, so your journalistic opinion on this, which was highly regarded by him, would be very much appreciated. We each come to this with different backgrounds, viewpoints, experiences and expectations. I'd like to hear your take.

    Should you keep that going here since Kim brought this up, or move it somewhere else.

    I'd like to know what others think/have to say. Maybe I'm just jaded.

  • In reply to Ken G:

    You are probably right. Unless you are the Huffington Post, blogs don't count, and most just reflect poor thinking and an obvious bias. Of course the bloggers who claim to be journalists get into a snit.

    For instance, I get a laugh out of posts such as the one today about the woman who almost hemorrhaged to death by using a vibrator. However, all those suggesting that we sing petitions to save teachers' pensions, welfare money, etc. are just self-serving prattle. Apparently, through use of social media, it is a lot easier to get such a petition going than it used to.

    Anyway, I use this mostly for intellectual exercise while doing boring work. And it is very boring today.

  • In reply to jack:

    "sign" not "sing." Jimmy still won't put a proofing frame on this.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    That was exactly what I was going to ask him, Jimmy! You beat me to it!

  • I hate to say it, but I almost (I say almost) prefer no comments at all. Firstly I say all I mean to say in a post and secondly most comments sections merely devolve into name calling. Of course, I write politics, so things are automatically at a higher level of passion in the first place.

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