Since I wrote about the seven kinds of anti-Linux FUD pundits, it occurred to me that plain old forum and blog-comment trolls could be classified, too.
Why does Free and Open Source Software get trolled so much? You'd think we were doing something awful by just writing programs and giving them away. While it is true that a lot of it could be mere paid asstroturfers courtesy of large commercial software companies, that doesn't explain them all. Over the years, I've seen so much online flamage - and even some in person! - that I couldn't miss spotting some patterns. You'll recognize these common trolls in this list. Most of them could almost be cut-and-pasted. Direct one here the next time you see them, if for nothing else than to urge them to get a new trick!
The Stockholder - This is very sad, because we have Joe Sixpack and Susie Soccermom out there with their 401-K being 50% tech stocks in proprietary software companies. And they then assume that all competing software companies are their mortal enemy. Look for lots of bad-mouthing the "competition" and boosting a well-known publicly-traded company, without much evidence of any technical knowledge.
Addendum: For another example of how investors let their wallet do the talking, look at the huge flame war going on right now over the fate of Yahoo. Microsoft is in a full-out war to crush it any way they can, and so hundreds of investors in one company or the other go online to spread the lies that Yahoo is a sinking ship who should submit to Microsoft.
It's all lies folks, every line by every troll, with Carl Icahn being in the lead. Yahoo is a Fortune 500 company (ranked #412), they take in $7 billion per year, and the domain attracts 1.5 billion visitors annually. If MSN.com were separated from the rest of Microsoft, Yahoo could buy them out of petty cash.
The Ugh-meri-kin - This neanderthal attacks GNU/Linux (it's always GNU/Linux) based on the nasty allegation that FOSS is communist, anti-capitalist, or anti-American. That goes 100% anti-logic. If anything, GNU/Linux is software as the signers of the Constitution would have had it. Democratic computing for Democratic people. It belongs to everyone, and is designed with the individual's maximum freedom always as its number-one cause. But then, not too much logic ever went into neanderthal philosophy.
The Vandal - The most dangerous troll of all. Capable of literally destroying FOSS projects just by flaming them online. The vandal always takes the tactic of attacking the interface. It's almost always a graphics program, too. And regardless of whether it's POVRay for 3D modeling or Inkscape for vector graphics, the comparison is always to Photoshop. The vandal works on insecure programmers. It works like this: "Your interface sucks!" So they change it. Then it's "Ha ha! I made you break a perfectly good program! Now you've rearranged your interface, confused yourself, alienated your old users, and not gotten any new users! You sucker, you fell for it!" So far, they've gotten Gimp and Blender this way. Don't fall for it, people! There is not a single thing wrong with a single FOSS program's user interface, anywhere, period.
I repeat: "There is not a single thing wrong with a single FOSS program's user interface, anywhere, period." Ever. In commercial software, people meekly accept the interface they are handed on proprietary software because they have no choice, and all complaints are met with "Buzz off!", and people still buy it anyway. FOSS needs to learn to do the same, or vandals will ruin it for their childish amusement forever. There is no reason to complain about something that you can fix yourself, anyway - that would be why it's open source, you know! If you can't live with a FOSS program as-is and can't program it yourself, hire some off-shore hacker to make you a custom copy for $20. I see it happen all the time.
Update: This point is now getting its own post, Interface Obsession Syndrome.
Rip-Van Winkle - A cousin to the Time Traveler FUD pundit. This user last tried Linux in version 1.0 - maybe somebody at college gave them a Yggdrasil Linux CD - and they didn't like it, and have gone on through life ever since morally convinced that Linux never marched another step forward. Imagine if you judged Windows by a glimpse you caught in 1993 of Windows 3.1 running a hotdog-stand color scheme. Or judged Apple by the MacIntosh system 7 of 1991. The difference between an ordinary misinformed user and a troll is that the troll is now advanced in years and set in his or her ways, and will accuse you of trickery if you try to show them different.
The Red Baron - This is actually a regular troll who just happens to be dishing out their delights in a Linux forum today. So they fly in and zero in on an easy target and buzz away, laughing in the flack. Pick any one of "Not a good gaming platform.", "Can't run this proprietary program.", "I tried it once and it didn't work.", "My gramma couldn't figure it out.", etc. Hold your well-reasoned rebuttal - the Red Baron is far away before you got a chance to react.
The Job Defender - This one's motivations, like the Stockholder, are purely financial. Hey, I can *almost* sympathize! I can imagine that you paid six figures to get a degree and ended up tied to a particular niche in proprietary software, and now you're worried that FOSS will put you out of a job if it catches on. The part where it becomes trolling is when they stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that FOSS creates jobs as well. They bet too much money on the wrong horse, and now it's all tears and self-pity.
Update Why hello, Groklaw readers, welcome to the Z-list! I've expanded the statement about interfaces into a new post, Interface Obsession Syndrome.
Update 7/10/08: If the program I have in the screenshot has you stumped, Béranger guessed it. While you're there, if you think I'm full of beans, you'll like how Béranger says so. He, like, really really opposes the views of my post. A lot.
NOTICE: HOLD YOUR FIRE AT LINSUX! I have a sense of humor about them, and I advise you readers to do the same. And I'm saying this fully aware of this post by "Sir Sane".
No, Sir Sane, but thanks for asking. Have you found any new ways to fill your time?