9 Aug 2008 11:35 am   //   Filed under: Technology

Be ready for a troll attack

It has taken me a week to get around to reading Mattathias Schwartz’s Times Magazine story about the brutal, online mischief-makers known as trolls. It’s worth a few minutes of time. It gets especially good around page 5:

“In 1981, [Internet pioneer Jon Postel] formulated what’s known as Postel’s Law: ‘Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others.’ Originally intended to foster ‘interoperability,’ the ability of multiple computer systems to understand one another, Postel’s Law is now recognized as having wider applications. To build a robust global network with no central authority, engineers were encouraged to write code that could ‘speak’ as clearly as possible yet ‘listen’ to the widest possible range of other speakers, including those who do not conform perfectly to the rules of the road. The human equivalent of this robustness is a combination of eloquence and tolerance — the spirit of good conversation. Trolls embody the opposite principle. They are liberal in what they do and conservative in what they construe as acceptable behavior from others.”