Spam and Trolls

Jam & Judicious Advice


What is a troll?

A troll is someone who posts on Internet message boards “to start arguments and upset people.”* We have had trolls at Toasted Cheese in the past and will probably have trolls in the future.

Trolls post provocatively because they know this will incite a reaction from other posters, thus giving them what they want: attention. The best thing to do with known trolls is ignore them. Sit on your fingers. Do not flame them back. Do not try to reason with them:

“Trolls are utterly impervious to criticism (constructive or otherwise). You cannot negotiate with them; you cannot cause them to feel shame or compassion; you cannot reason with them. They cannot be made to feel remorse. For some reason, trolls do not feel they are bound by the rules of courtesy or social responsibility.”*

How do I tell if a poster is a troll? What if I’m not sure?

Consider the poster’s prior posts (if any). If the post is out of character, he/she may just be in a bad mood, or the topic may have touched a nerve. If it’s a new poster, he/she may not be familiar with board etiquette. Assume the best, and try responding with a polite, friendly message.

You’ll generally be able to tell by their reaction whether they’re a troll or not. Someone who’s willing to negotiate, who backs down when called on his/her behavior, or apologizes, is not a troll. Trolls will argue “hello & welcome” if that’s all they have to work with. If the poster responds in a trolly manner, do not continue the conversation.

There’s a troll on my board. What recourse do I have?

If you’re concerned about a possible troll, email the Toasted Cheese staff at editors[at] Include the URL and content of the post. Your email and ID will remain confidential.

How do I avoid being labeled a troll?

The best way to keep from being considered a troll is to follow the posting guidelines and basic rules of courtesy. Remember, there is a person behind each post. Keep your criticisms to the writing; do not personally attack the writer. For example, “I noticed some spelling and grammar problems in your story. Here are a few examples…” is appropriate, whereas “Did you drop out of school in sixth grade? Your spelling sucks.” is not.

A good rule of thumb: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want someone to say to you, nor anything you wouldn’t say to someone “in real life”, i.e. to their face.

If you do post something in the heat of the moment, and later regret it, apologize, and then move on. Don’t dwell on it, or beat yourself up about it.

*from Internet Trolls © 2001 by Timothy Campbell


What is spam?

Merriam-Webster’s definition of spam is “unsolicited usually commercial E-mail sent to a large number of addresses”, in other words, junk mail.

In the case of Toasted Cheese‘s message boards, spam means the same post posted to an unacceptable number of boards, i.e. more than two or three. (n.b. This does not apply to board hosts posting TC memos.) Posts that are irrelevant to the purpose of Toasted Cheese, i.e. posts that have nothing whatsoever to do with writing or writers, will also be considered spam.

What is not spam?

Ads and self-promotion are not spam. Toasted Cheese encourages writers to share URLs of articles, contests, resources, ezines, etc. Posters are also welcome to post a link to their own website, advertise a book or article they have written, or tell us about a service they offer. All we ask is that these be writing-related.

But it’s rude to post a link to your site if you’re not a regular poster!

While it may not be up to your standards of etiquette, it’s still not spam. Instead of getting upset when someone does this, respond with a pleasant welcome, ask the poster about him/herself, and encourage him/her to get involved.

Okay, but this one is really spam!

If you believe a post is spam, send an email to editors[at] which includes the URL and content of the post. Please do not publicly accuse someone of posting spam.

I told you about it, but the post is still there.

We may have decided that the post does not qualify as spam.

Even if it really is spam, we’ll probably only remove the post if the poster is a repeat offender. We consider removing posts a last resort, and strive to do it as infrequently as possible. A first offender will likely receive a private warning.

Your best bet: ignore the post and trust that we’ll take care of it.

Why is TC spamming me?

We’re not.Spammers are able to spoof email addresses, i.e. make it look like their spam came from someone else’s address/domain. Sometimes this is a targeted attack, the intent being to have recipients of the spam report the unwitting victim (who only becomes aware of the attack when they start receiving bounced e-mails) to their service provider as a spammer. See: Joe Job. More frequently, it is random and automated, using addresses harvested by spambots.

We have reported the abuse of our domain name to our service provider. Unfortunately, there is nothing that we, or they, can do to stop/prevent it. However, we want to make it clear: we don’t spam. If you have received spam that looks like it came from TC, it didn’t. Period.