Dear Lifehacker, I really like reading your blog and others around the net, but I'm getting really sick and tired of all the trolls. Is there any way to easily block all the offensive comments that seem to swarm blogs these days?
Signed, Fed Up With Trolls
Photo by Genista.
Dear Fed Up,
We feel your pain here at Lifehacker (which is why we use a comment approval system), and while there are a lot of great solutions out there, none of them are all-encompassing, and none of them are foolproof — but we can give you a few tips for doing the best you can on the sites you visit.
A great example of a site-specific tool is the previously mentioned YouTube Comment Snob extension for Firefox. While it looks like it doesn't currently work with the new version of YouTube (though it is still in active development, so we hope to see a fix soon), it does a good job of blocking spam comments. Within the extension, you can create pre-set filters for, say, excessive capitalisation or frequent misspellings, and hide comments containing those features. In fact, we wish that this add-on existed for the entire internet, but sadly the world is not that simple.
The closest thing we could find to a "Comment Snob for the entire internet" was this handy Greasemonkey extension. It's more of a profanity filter than a comment blocker, but at least you can block the words you don't want to see and replace them with ***. It's not quite as useful, but you can at least make trolls easier to spot and thus ignore.
There are some other add-ons and scripts floating around out there, but like YouTube Comment Snob, they're all for specific services. For example, Lifehacker reader KosciaK wrote in to tell us about Buzz Troll Remover for Chrome and TrollEyBuzz for Firefox, which allow you to block certain people from showing up in Google Buzz. Thus, the best way to go about blocking trolls is on a site-by-site basis. Perhaps search Google for Firefox extensions or Greasemonkey scripts that somehow manage trolls in that particular forum. Also, be sure to read up on that forum's built-in commenting features, because there are probably features for blocking people, reporting spammers, and voting certain comments up and down to get them hidden from view.
Apart from that, the most important advice we can give is whatever you do, don't feed the trolls. Trolls thrive on getting a rise out of people, and if you reply to their comments, you're just giving them the attention they so desperately crave. And, if you respond in a negative tone, you end up becoming just as bad as them and fan the flame war, so to speak. Be sure that you're setting a good example and adhering to the best netiquette practices.
If the pain is just too great and there's no other way to avoid them, you could try blocking comments altogether on that site with the CommentBlocker Firefox Extension. Supposedly it works on a large range of sites, but if you want to participate in the community on that site then this won't do you much good. In the end, the best thing you can do is learn to deal with the haters. Unfortunately, it's something we all have to do, both in real life and on the internet, and while there are certain tools to help you avoid them completely (depending on the site), no solution is sweeping and foolproof, so the best way to get past it is to hold your head high and power through.
P.S. Got any of your own tips for dealing with trolls around the web? Share them with us in the comments.