For better or for worse, online communities are born out of like-mindedness. That’s different than our geographical-based communities. These communites grow and people on the fringe of this like-mindedness will no doubt arrive. The guiding principle begins to fall apart. This state is ideal for diversity of opinion, but it is only a matter of time until the Shitlord appears.
The Shitlord has a singular societal function: to provoke. Crass language and jokes, hostile opinions, contrarianism for controversy’s sake, even rape and death threats. They squelch the peacekeepers and embolden the extremists. Unmanaged, dissidence grows and grows. The traditional advice to “ignore the trolls” doesn’t work here. I say this from experience, it’s not easy to fix.
The CrunchBang forums had a few Shitlords and they were a proper PITA. I remember one in particular who was mentally unhinged on a level that I’ve not experienced before. I can confirm that “don’t feed the trolls” did not work for this Shitlord. Instead, I fed them courtesy and kindness, and over a period of months, the Shitlord lost interest and moved on. It was time consuming, frustrating, a little scary, but most annoyingly, it was a distraction.
Shitlords aside, the CrunchBang forums and community were totally awesome. I will always remember them with fond memories.