Write Blog. Get Trolled.

This weekend was the first ever blogging conference from Mumsnet – BlogFest.

I did have a ticket but life got in the way, and I ended up passing it on to a friend, and following the news on Twitter.

The thing about Twitter is you can see the comments that really strike a chord with a conference audience – because a dozen people Tweet the same sound-bite simultaneously.

In this case, it was a comment from the panel on trolling that was scattered across Twitter – If you blog, you should expect to be trolled.

Actually, unpalatable as it may seem, I think it’s true. 

If you publish anything but entirely bland thoughts on the Internet, someone, somewhere will disagree with you.

Since not everyone in the world is blessed with my – ahem – sterling levels of tact and diplomacy, eventually someone will disagree with you in a way that you don’t like. Sometimes it’ll be unintentional, and they don’t mean their words the way they come across. But sooner or later, someone will disagree with you and be nasty. They’ll want to provoke you.

You can drive yourself insane trying to understand why someone would do such a thing – but take it from someone who’s been there, that’s a fool’s errand. Because even if you know why someone wants to upset you, there’s nothing you can do about it.

Trust me – a troll will never read your impassioned defence of your position on baby-led weaning and decide, “Wow, I got that person all wrong. I must apologise.” 

Whatever you say, or do, or write will only ever confirm your troll’s opinion of you.

And the more you protest, the more the troll is rubbing their hands with glee at the idea they provoked you. And they will almost certainly be back for round two before you know it. You feel obliged to respond again, and before you know it, all your mental energy is being sucked into a pointless, negative dispute with someone you don’t even know.

None of this is news to most bloggers, I don’t think.

Which is why I’m amazed to see so many bloggers getting sucked in to a pointless debate with the Queen of Trolls, Liz Jones.

Writing in the Daily Mail (a newspaper that has honed the art of provoking outrage into a fine art) Ms Jones accused Mummy bloggers of being like a virtual branch of the WI, of ignoring children in favour of screens, and being narrow-minded, blah blah.

Liz Jones is never going to read your explanation of how bloggers are smart, interesting, educated men and women who are making a real difference in all sorts of ways. They’ll never read about the political debate on your blog, or how your work with brands is changing the way brands engage with parents. Or how parents are finding new, innovative ways to earn a living, and create a better work/life balance.

Because that was never the point.

The point was to generate a reaction, and in doing so, boost page views and raise the profile of a newspaper.

And on that score?

I think it’s a decisive victory to the Daily Mail.





Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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    • 12th November 2012 / 9:58 am

      Quite. Muppets.

  1. 12th November 2012 / 7:47 am

    Agreed, She knew what she was doing, the post was probably written before she went.

    All I had to say on the matter yesterday was, Trolls gonna troll.

    • 12th November 2012 / 9:58 am

      I agree. It’s such a shame that I’ve heard so little about the main conference and other speakers, and what all those angry blog posts do is just come across like shrill women getting all worked up – playing exactly into the critics’ hands.

  2. 12th November 2012 / 7:52 am

    As I said yesterday, I may be a blogger who writes about burping, cupcakes and craft, amongst many, many other things, but it could be a lot worse. I could write for the Daily Mail.
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    • 12th November 2012 / 12:25 pm

      There is that.

  3. 12th November 2012 / 8:07 am

    Agreed about LJ – I wish I was thick skinned enough to make a living by jotting down a few weekly insults. I’ve never been trolled by provocateurs but I did make a few of people very upset when I wrote that it is your own fault if you are childless. No matter how many times I explained that the provocative heading was simply me trying to say that our lives are a result of all the choices we make along the way – they were still upset and kept coming back with more and more (increasingly aggressive) comments. I don’t blame them as this is a delicate subject and I knew that I’d hit a raw nerve. However, in the end I had to write: This is my blog and I write my opinion. I cannot explain any better than I have done and your comments, whilst expressing valid points, are not changing my opinion. This was my last attempt at explaining, after this you get a “Thank you for your comment.”
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    • 12th November 2012 / 9:59 am

      Really great experience, actually, I think your handled it perfectly.

  4. 12th November 2012 / 9:07 am

    SO true. Why didn’t everyone just ignore her and write about Caitlin Moran or any of the others there rather than that woman? Everyone else seems a bit dwarfed in writeups (that I’ve read so far) by the reaction to LJ and that’s sad.
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    • 12th November 2012 / 10:16 am

      Yes, very sad.

  5. Joanne Mallon
    12th November 2012 / 9:11 am

    I agree that it was 100% certain that this column was going to appear from the moment Liz Jones was booked, which makes you wonder what larger game the event organisers were playing. As it is this has overshadowed the rest of the conference – I would love to know what people learned from the day but perhaps that will emerge when this trollwind has died down.

    There was talk yesterday of just ignoring the LJ post and not blogging about it as that would undoubtedly feed the troll. I thought that was a smart response but ultimately never going to happen cos bloggers do tend to have opinions which they like to express, and why shouldn’t they?

    • 12th November 2012 / 10:00 am

      Yes, the article was a foregone conclusion, I agree, and I definitely think it’s a shame it is THE story to come out of the conference now. I’d have loved to have seen more coverage about the content – if these women (and it’s women, in the main) are so smart and creative and engaged in life outside of the WI (which we know they are) then where are the posts to prove it?

      As to the organisers, I suspect they’re delighted. S’all good publicity, innit?

      • 22nd November 2012 / 2:13 pm

        Ahem. If you take a look at the post linked below you’ll see I didn’t mention that woman at all, and talked about other stuff instead. Tadah, etc.
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  6. 12th November 2012 / 9:35 am

    I agree, although her piece read so like a send up I couldn’t resist a wee parody for my own amusement. She is paid to provoke like Samantha Bluck was. The Mail is brilliant at knowing which buttons to push to boost its readers and Jones’s latest column will have worked brilliantly in its favour. My main gripe about her is not her inflammatory views but that her writing is so slapdash.
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    • 12th November 2012 / 10:01 am

      Everything Liz Jones writes is parody. It’s like I always say – once you realise the Daily Mail is just a panto, life gets a lot simpler.

  7. 12th November 2012 / 10:08 am

    Completely agree with you Sally, it’s as if you checked my opinion before writing this on my behalf. As I just posted on Britmums response post, “well done for fanning the flames of a monomaniac”.

    Nothing she does or says is done for any reason other than getting a response, and right now she’s getting just what she wants. The only way to deal with Jones is to ignore her and rob her of the oxygen of publicity.
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  8. Domestic Goddesque
    12th November 2012 / 10:45 am

    As ever, you express what the world thinks. (which is to say that I had a vaguely similar thought on Sunday morning when it all kicked off, then got on with my day and haven’t had a chance to consider the thought again until now when I discover it’s been done.)

    It would have been a far greater thing if everyone had decided to not mention her at all. She’d have thought she was losing her edge, suffered doubts. This would have affected her work, which could have lead to her being sacked. And in the space of a year, she would have gone from being a published ‘artist’ (because she does consider herself to be an artist) with no friends to a washed-up hack who can’t even score a gig on the local paper. With no friends.

    • 12th November 2012 / 12:26 pm

      hahaha – I express what the world thinks? I fear for the world.

      But yes, I do wish people had just ignored it and focused on the many smart, interesting women at the conference rather than a blatant bit of panto link-baiting. Tsk. Are we STILL falling for that old chestnut?

  9. Mrs Teepot
    12th November 2012 / 11:25 am

    Sadly you are very right. It’s so hard to “not feed the trolls” though, especially when they’re Liz Jones!

    • 12th November 2012 / 12:25 pm

      Just ignore her and she might go away.

  10. Vegemitevix
    12th November 2012 / 1:03 pm

    Exactly why I haven’t written anything about Liz Jones. She just doesn’t need the oxygen for her fire.

    • 12th November 2012 / 10:23 pm

      I am inclined to agree.

  11. 12th November 2012 / 2:46 pm

    Would have loved to have heard so much more about Blogfest other than Liz Jones, I really would. And as for the trolls, well you do need a thick skin if you’re going to put your opinions out there for all to see, and always remember you never know who is behind the email/tweet/fb post/blog comment. They’re more thank likely nothing like you, and they won’t think or react in the same way. Be prepared for that!
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    • 12th November 2012 / 10:23 pm

      That’s actually really smart advice about trolls, thanks.

  12. purplemum
    12th November 2012 / 3:29 pm

    It’s true that trolls are rude and best ignored. I did however write about Liz Jones’s article because when I read it, it prompted me to think about how I felt about it, which usually leads to me blogging so I did.

    Sometimes a ridiculous thing sparks clarity and for me this tied in with my recent reading of “How to be a woman” and thoughts that have been kicking about since then.

    • 12th November 2012 / 10:23 pm

      Fair enough. As much as I think she’s a troll, you’re free to blog as you please, and it’s not for me to say what’s right or wrong. Only what I think. Ooh, this gets very circular, very fast, doesn’t it?

  13. 12th November 2012 / 6:35 pm

    I agree with purplemum, I wrote about LJ not as a hand wringing angry response but because she demonstrated a salient point that came out of the conference for me, which is that you can blog about your life or live your life to blog. She a walking advert for why privacy and self editing is important. I will no doubt write further posts about the conference but to be honest i was busy getting over my hangover!

    • 12th November 2012 / 10:22 pm

      Interesting point – thanks for sharing.

  14. 12th November 2012 / 9:26 pm

    I couldn’t have put it better myself. I could have virtually guaranteed that she would write something and it wouldn’t be pretty but I wondered if that was the whole point. After all, people are blogging and tweeting about MN and Blogfest far more and for longer than they would have done otherwise.

    I tweeted something along those lines yesterday but people have carried on blogging about her anyway. Hey ho.
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    • 12th November 2012 / 10:22 pm

      Yes, you may well be right.

  15. 12th November 2012 / 9:45 pm

    I was disappointed that I couldn’t make it to the BlogFest, especially as I experienced the aggressively male discussions at Travel BlogCamp last week. But it sounds like the BlogFest had its moments too. I hope I can make it next time to see for myself.

    • 12th November 2012 / 10:21 pm

      Oh, I missed that about Travel BlogCamp – was it very aggressive? That’s a shame.

  16. Mediocre Mum
    12th November 2012 / 10:05 pm

    I spent most of last night trying to articulate just this in one of our blogger forum but very badly. You’ve summed it up perfectly, I guess many not only blogged because they were driven to but also it probably generated sh*t loads of traffic to their blogs. Guess they aren’t as daft as LJ thinks.

  17. Liz Weston aka @TheLizWeston
    12th November 2012 / 10:09 pm

    As someone who was referenced in the article, I chose to reply. I’m entitled to. People can choose to read or not read my blog. I have seen some of the words used to describe me, and other people who chose to write about it, and am disappointed. But live and let live.

    What I get worked up about is different to what others get worked up about and that’s to be celebrated – the world would be a very boring place if we all thought the same thing.

    • 12th November 2012 / 10:20 pm

      Didn’t she say you were smarter than the others? You are an amazing blogger and I just think UGH – why waste your words and wisdom on a troll?

      And you know (I hope) that I am all about celebrating the differences. By all means disagree with me, the more the merrier 🙂

      • Liz Weston aka @TheLizWeston
        12th November 2012 / 10:33 pm

        See, I don’t know. I really don’t. I need to go to bed – 5am start tomorrow. But, part of me thinks you are right – that I shouldn’t spend my time responding. But the other part of me thinks that if people come to my blog and don’t see me commenting and replying, will they think that I am agreeing with her?

        It’s a bit strange for me as I try to stay relatively under the radar in my personal blog – so the traffic (helllooooooo…..) was great, but I’m not someone who rants online, so it’s all a bit of a departure for me. Maybe I’ll regret it in a week or so? But at the same time, we regret the things in life that we don’t do, so maybe I won’t??

        Confusedly Yours…

        PS. She said I was more straight forward, I think? I can’t remember. I like you thinking me smart, not sure about her!

  18. 12th November 2012 / 10:21 pm

    Ha ha! Absolutely. I really wanted to know about Caitlin Moran. Was she as cool and intimidatingly clever as I imagine?

  19. 13th November 2012 / 10:05 am

    I totally agree with not responding to negative comments because they say little about the subject of the post/content but more about the bitter and unhappy personality of the complainer. Best to live and let live. Forgive the comment and then hit delete – per Gabrielle Bernstein’s words.

  20. 13th November 2012 / 10:26 am

    I am of the line of thought that a faceless online troll is best ignored but the Liz Jones thing is a public issue and my anger is not for her opinions on mummy blogging but the burka comment, that manages to squeeze in sexism and racism in one line.
    Yes shouting about how wrong it is gives them more exposure but to sit quietly and say nothing? Now that is repression.
    I hadn’t read The Daily Mail until Saturday – I missed the whole Samantha Brick thing. I cannot understand why people just sit silently tutting about these things.
    I’m all for sewing up some Cath Kidston burkas and getting my arse down to The Daily Mail for a protest.
    The whole thing has left me feeling really dejected sadly.
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  21. Nikki
    13th November 2012 / 11:19 am

    Being a blog reader rather than a blogger, have totally missed this debate. After reading your post though Sally, I must say that responding to the Daily Mail in any way, shape or form is like feeding a pigeon to make it go away.

  22. Tiger in Space
    13th November 2012 / 3:16 pm

    Liz Jones is a self-feeding troll. She trolls her own life, friends and family and has been openly rude about mothers in the past, so providing her with further ammunition was never going to help…

  23. 13th November 2012 / 6:37 pm

    I had actually never heard of Liz Jones until I read Sonya Cisco’s post about it. I was outraged but I will not glorify the troll by reading or reacting to her article.

    I agree that bloggers should expect the odd troll or two. And sometimes those trolls are other bloggers, which is a real shame for our little community. I do however think there are different degrees of troll. I read a terrifying article about a blogger whose troll started sending grotesque packages and threats to their home address. That is NOT acceptable and I hope I hear of no other bloggers getting that degree of troll. xx
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  24. 14th November 2012 / 11:01 am

    Couldn’t agree more. Well put.

  25. 18th November 2012 / 12:40 pm

    I feel very lucky that I’ve never been trolled, because I’m not quite sure how I would handle it. I did like the idea, of changing what the troll put to a dazzling recommendation of your blog to the world and publishing it.
    I agree I think the whole debate (if there ever was one) meant nothing in the end, as it was just a way to invoke a reaction.
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  26. 20th November 2012 / 11:04 am

    I’ve not been trolled but I do think that everyone it entitled to their own opinion, even if it is clearly wrong 😉 It’s easy to get into a slanging match but it just isn’t worthwhile. If someone bothers you that much, either give them a response and leave it at that, or delete their comment. Life is too short and there are too many nice people out there loving blogs to worry about one who is likely just looking for confrontation anyway.
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