I tend to favor Stowe’s argument, but there is a little hole in it we need to plug. Stowe says to Dave “I agree with you about trolls. There are people out there who are the enemies of the future (as Virginia Postrel styled it in her book of the same name), and they need to be outed whenever possible.” I haven’t read that book, but my question to Stowe, and others, is this: what defines an “enemy of the future?” Stated another way, how do we distinguish a troll from someone who merely disagrees. A troll from a skeptic? And who gets to decide where those lines are drawn? Debate and competition are key forces in innovation and efficiency. I agree that there are those whose goal is not to debate and compete, but to condemn and destroy. But I think there is potential danger in how we tell them apart.
I am on Stowe’s side of the line where the development of technical innovations, including social applications, is concerned. Like songwriting, there is absolute beauty in the creation of something that has meaning beyond yourself. But also like songwriting, when those who want to monetize that creation start calling the shots, there is potential for the artistic process to become corrupt. Generally in one form or another of the greater fool theory. If money is to be made, it has to come from somewhere. It is in some of those situations that I occasionally step back across that line and join the so-called skeptics.
Does that make me a troll? Of course not, and I’m sure Stowe will agree. But the line between skeptic and troll is a hard one to draw brightly. And some will use the troll label as a preemptive strike against a contrary opinion or skepticism that might stand between them and a dollar bill.
That’s where things get a little dicey. No matter what kind of hat you’re wearing.