First off, the gorgeous new trailer for the first part of The Hobbit has just been released:

Now, a slight digression. Back when the internet was new (and I’m not entirely exaggerating with that), the Jargon File was created as a living encyclopedia of words, phrases, terms, and events common to the geek communities of the day. In that document are the original definitions for the term “troll” as used in the electronic world.

  1. v.,n. [From the Usenet group alt.folklore.urban] To utter a posting on Usenet designed to attract predictable responses or flames; or, the post itself. Derives from the phrase “trolling for newbies” which in turn comes from mainstream “trolling”, a style of fishing in which one trails bait through a likely spot hoping for a bite. The well-constructed troll is a post that induces lots of newbies and flamers to make themselves look even more clueless than they already do, while subtly conveying to the more savvy and experienced that it is in fact a deliberate troll. If you don’t fall for the joke, you get to be in on it. See also YHBT.

  2. n. An individual who chronically trolls in sense 1; regularly posts specious arguments, flames or personal attacks to a newsgroup, discussion list, or in email for no other purpose than to annoy someone or disrupt a discussion. Trolls are recognizable by the fact that they have no real interest in learning about the topic at hand – they simply want to utter flame bait. Like the ugly creatures they are named after, they exhibit no redeeming characteristics, and as such, they are recognized as a lower form of life on the net, as in, “Oh, ignore him, he’s just a troll.” Compare kook.

Where today, “troll” is almost universally understood as the second of the above quoted definitions — a person solely out to provoke annoyance — I’ve always preferred the first definition. In that sense, a properly constructed troll is something I’ve always respected.

The comments for yesterday evening’s io9 post about the Hobbit trailer contain a beautiful example of trolling in the old sense (“…a post that induces lots of newbies and flamers to make themselves look even more clueless than they already do, while subtly conveying to the more savvy and experienced that it is in fact a deliberate troll. If you don’t fall for the joke, you get to be in on it.”). This comment gave me a good laugh this morning:

Yawwwn, sequelitis strikes again.

Hey Hollywood, how long’d it take you to come up with yet another unnecessary backstory?! Do we really need to go with Frodo’s dad on his quest to find the ring?

I bet they’ll dumb it down and make it all kiddy too. Hard R or I ain’t watchin!

How much you wanna bet they’ll figure out a way to shoehorn half-a-dozen giant spiders to compete with the one they had in LOTR2.

Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a troll is supposed to be done.