No More Trolls: The Sequel

We’re in the midst of an important Westport anniversary.

At dusk 237 years ago yesterday — April 25, 1777 — 2000 British troops landed at Compo Beach. Tory loyalists planned to guide them up Compo Road to Cross Highway, across to Redding Road, then north through Redding and Bethel to Danbury, where they would burn a major munitions depot.

Patriots fired a few shots at the corner of the Post Road and Compo, but the British marched on. In Danbury they destroyed the Continental Army’s munitions, then headed back toward their waiting ships at Compo.

Hastily assembled patriot forces fought them in the fierce Battle of Ridgefield. Led by Brigadier General Benedict Arnold — not yet a traitor — and outnumbered 3 to 1, the patriots deployed a strategy of selective engagement.

British forces landed at Compo Beach, marched to Danbury, marched back south and — after the Battle of Compo Hill — retreated to Long Island.

The next day — April 28, 1777 — patriot marksmen waited on Compo Hill (the current site of Minuteman Hill road). They did not stop the redcoats — 20 colonials were killed, and between 40 and 80 wounded when the British made a shoulder to shoulder charge with fixed bayonets — but they gave them a fight.

A very different fight took place in the days leading up to April 26, 2013. Here on the “06880” blog, a post about the new town arts curator devolved into nasty attacks on her and her appointment. Accusations flew about a waste of town dollars. Even after it was noted that she is a volunteer, she continued to be vilified.

A post about a summer party planned for the “06880″ community quickly degenerated into a political catfight. Much of the joy of the announcement was sucked away by anonymous commenters.

There is a word for anonymous internet bullies: trolls.

There is a word for anonymous internet bullies: trolls.

So a year ago today, I pulled the plug on anonymity. In a pissed-off post, I described the reasons I finally had it with “trolls.” By stirring the pot so virulently, they were poisoning the blog for everyone. They clothed themselves in free speech garb, but in reality they were just cyberspace bullies.

That post drew 91 comments. Almost all were positive. A few people predicted the end of “06880.”

So what’s happened in the year since, now that commenters have to use their real, full names?

Well, I’m working harder. Not everyone follows the rules. I spend time deleting occasional anonymous posts — I have not gone as far as to demand pre-registration — and sending requests to re-post (I’ll even do it for you).

The number of comments is down a bit — but not significantly. Instead of 2 or 3 bozos shouting at each other, we’ve had (for the most part) civil conversations.

The dark spirits are gone. “06880” is lighter, freer.

We now know who is part of the “06880” community. And doesn’t any community — a blog, a town, whatever — function better when everyone knows their neighbors?

In the nearly 2 1/2 centuries since the Battle of Compo Hill, the British have never ventured inland again.

And — as the past year proves — the trolls are also gone for good.


24 responses to “No More Trolls: The Sequel

  1. Armelle daniels

    Yes I remember your post Dan; I applauded you then. I stand firm by my conviction that anonymous blogging attracts top many cowards who are not held accountable for their opinions and, most often, insults and lies. Removing anonimity certainly results in some losses – i.e. interesting comments from “shy” readers, but the gain of an intelligent, civilized conversation is far greater. Again, thanks Dan for making the change.

  2. Bobbie Herman

    Dan — I look forward to your blogs and appreciate all the hard work that goes into writing them. I also appreciate the civility that you brought about. The comments now are relevant, and as the victim of a few nasty insults (when writing under my nom de plume) I am happy that you’ve made us use our real names.

  3. Beth Berkowitz

    I like this blog and follow it without usually commenting. I find you post some very interesting blogs on all different topics. I like the diversity of topics. Thanks.

  4. Wendy Crowther

    Great post, Dan – an awesome mix of old history and new history. I’m another of your followers who thinks your blog is better than ever since you de-trolled it.

  5. Ditto to what Wendy just said, Dan.
    BTW, the British did come back, with matches, two years later. So you have to remain vigilant. Keep up the great work !

  6. Art Schoeller

    Dan keep up the great work! In my opinion the loss of trolls is to all our benefit. Your blog is better for it, and so is the Westport community where 06880danwoog is a place for us to have constructive, respectful conversations about this town we all love.

  7. What a great move, Dan! I am proud to share this blog with all my new folks moving to town… much better representation of the people we really are!

  8. Claudia Ebeling, Staples '69

    Dan, I left Westport in 1974, a year after graduating from college. After my family moved out in the late 80s, I never really returned except for an occasional drive through when passing through the region. It has been the quality of your blog that has brought me back in touch, and I greatly appreciate the diversity of topics and the increased quality of discourse since you banned the trolls. There remains a healthy variety of opinion among the comments but without the childish, wasteful snark that damages so much of the blogosphere. I wish more bloggers would follow your lead of concise, quality writing; curiosity about the world; willingness to do your homework; and the call for civility.

  9. Here is an interesting parallel on the unfortunate state of comments sections:

    Thanks Dan, you have done a great job keeping our community healthy. – Chris Woods

  10. Mary Ann West

    Thank you Dan for your leadership, please note that Huffington Post followed suite soon after you put your blogging foot down, we are all better off for 06880’s continued sense of community spirit.

    HP still gets it’s share of rabid vitriol, hot political topics usually do, and it is easy to flag the truly egregious.

  11. Tom Greene, Sr.

    I love your blog. I grew up in Westport, 1936-1953. Your blog brings back many memories. Keep it going.

  12. I wish the guys from YikYak thought about the “trolls” before putting out their app.

  13. Congratulations on a year of civility, Dan. Your blog is an important part of my day as a former Westporter. I love all of the memories that are brought to mind, and to see all of the photos of my childhood home. A lot has changed and so glad to see that there’s at least some preservation going on. Could be more imo but I don’t live there so… can’t say so much. My hope is that Remarkable doesn’t become a teardown. Westport in the golden years represented a lot of what was good in life everywhere.

    What was written by the anonymous trolls on this blog – many times so hostile, immature, nasty — blew my mind some days. I can’t imagine living in a town of 26K — how anyone thought that was OK– nowhere to run from your words, that’s for sure. The incivility on this smaller blog is a window into larger issues of our world – why we’re in the mess we’re in. It made many of us ask some important questions about how we want our world to be — and Dan took a stand — an important one that goes well beyond his 06880 blog. That stand has ripple effects into the world. Not really a small thing that happened.


  14. THANKS to all who have commented so nicely. I’m away for the weekend, but monitoring “06880” from afar. You guys (and gals) have made my day. Here’s to many more troll-free years! THANKS again!

  15. Kudos to you, Dan, I love this blog and have learned so much from it. You do a great job–thanks!

  16. Thanks, Dan. O6880 has been better than ever this past year, whether there are more posts or not. Those people who do post have good things to say–and that was the point of the change. Keep on bloggin”!

  17. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    What I find great about this “place” is that all problems, solutions, good and not so good stories are universal, not unique.

  18. Dan, ya need at least ONE contrarian:
    So I’ll volunteer…

    A love in ! No surprise. All the sarcastic, in your face, tell it bluntly folks are forbidden to post. Gee, who’s left?

    A self fulfilling prophecy. DUH.

    Some “trolls” had legitimate points, others went overboard. But quite often it was hilarious to read the insanity, even when the topic was derailed from the get go.

    Dan, I understand your point completely. You are a serious, intelligent, masterful writer who informs and educates all your readers. Even you have changed to a more moderate and less jocular scribe. No more tongue in cheek, double meaning posts designed to stimulate conflict.

    But there are very few opposing points of view (the beach was a recent exception), and very little humor, and zero sarcasm. I used to track many blogs and my iPhone would sound like a machine gun as more and more people sounded off. In many cases, it was the “unidentified” who triggered insightful remarks from both the named and unnamed.

    I guess “better” is in the eye of the blogger. It ain’t as funny or entertaining, the comments are fewer, and the points of view are usually monochromatic. That doesn’t make it better or worse…just different.

    Maybe once a year or once a month, open it up to anonymous posters just to keep the “It’s Saturday Night!” humor and trash talking alive. You can pick wild topics to enrage the savages.

    And YES, some idiots went way over the line into personal attacks and insincere comments, but to silence them, a lot of insightful and humorous thoughts were also lost.

    Not my call…

    Dan, I hope my candor is understood. I still read and comment, but it ain’t the lively blog it used to be. And it ain’t mine, either, so I don’t get to vote.

    Still love ya 🙂

    • Thanks, Tom — much appreciated. I’m glad you’re still with us, despite our move to monochomaticity (word?). I have actually allowed anonymous comments a couple of times. I’ll continue to do it, as warranted.

      And thanks for weighing in whenever you do. You’ve always got a great point of view — and I appreciate you manning up with your real name!

    • Nancy Hunter Wilson

      I don’t understand your point. If you’re unhappy here, then venture elsewhere.
      Note that different points of view (and I’ve read plenty here) do not require sarcasm.

    • Werner Liepolt

      I also don’t understand this… Why would humor, sarcasm, ironic observations, lampooning, etc. Have to be anonymous? What got to me about the anonymous trolls’ postings was that they were not in the least funny… There were many vicious anonymous attacks on people who were doing good for themselves, others, or worthy institutions. And the worst, particularly despicable, attacks were on young, idealistic students… There are plenty of internet sewers where those who wish to submerge into anonymity can still go. There is nothing to lament about their exclusion from this blog.

      • Thank you, Werner and Nancy – I was going to say the same thing myself — I mean, where is the humor in that kind of cruelty?

  19. Luisa Francoeur

    I agree with the comments already posted that your blog is better off without anonymity. Those nasty comments and name calling never felt funny to me. Opposing points of view, humor and sarcasm are still available to anyone who cares to use them responsibly.

  20. Hi Dan:

    Although we don’t live in Westport we spend a lot of our time there. We ♥ Compo beach, the Westport Library and the hubby works in Westport … we hope to someday live there.

    I have enjoyed all the interesting reads you post and enjoy reading many of the comments from all.

    Keep up the great work!