Thursday, March 13, 2008

What is Trolling?

This post is for only the hardest of the hardcore blog readers.

Because I have a different view about some topics people write on various science blogs out there, I have been occasionally labeled as a Troll. Usually it's for when I speak up in the comments sections of others' posts for some middle of the road perspective about the science/religion conflict or (more rarely) if I say something good about a Republican. I welcome critical conversation on my blog, and sometimes wish I got more trolls. (I've had two that have corrected me and one that was merely annoying.) Mostly, I get spam. That's why you have to wait for my approval for your comment to show up.

You should know about a blogger out there who goes by the name of PhysioProf. His posts (now featured on the ScienceBorg) are frequented by words I care not for, but his ideas and points I almost always appreciate. PP has gotten into a little tiff with another ScienceBlogger named Greg Laden about a post Laden wrote about the recent retraction of a research article by Linda Buck. (She's a Nobel Prize winner who happens to be the mentor of a good friend of mine in the UW MD/PhD program.)

At the end of his long dissection of Laden's imprecise statements, PP makes a nice observation about blog trolling:
Is it "trolling" to use the Socratic method to lead people to novel understanding? Is it trolling to force people outside their comfort zone in particular domains, as a means for encouraging personal growth? Is it trolling to vigorously advocate for and defend positions using coherent arguments based in fact and logic? Is it trolling to identify bu#$&it as such? Being comfortable all the time is no way to grow, to expand one's capacities, one's scope of knowledge and expertise.
Right on!

Elsewhere in his article, PP discusses the Nobel Prize, blogging ethics, the biomedical research complex and more. I started to read it with the intent to tire my eyes before a post-call mid-afternoon nap, but seem to have fired myself up, instead. Maybe curling up with a medical text under a blanket before the fireplace will do the trick. Maybe I should nix the textbook part...

1 comment:

Drugmonkey said...

I think in this case it is very clear that the accusation of "troll" was off base even within the usual definitions and uses. Laden was resorting to the lamest sort of ad hominem to deflect attention away from the central fact that he was wrong. which, btw, he later admitted.

This little scene is not a particularly good one for discussing what it means to "troll" in my view.

*disclaimer for thomas' readers, I co-blog with PhysioProf at DrugMonkey.