The happy network, the fairy tale (part two) #cck11

What happens to the happy people and the unhappy person? Do they dis-connect? Do the happy people go back to being happy again? Where does the unhappy person go? Why is s/he unhappy? Has s/he destroyed the happiness?

My point with part one of this fairy tale was: in a network we want response, an answer. People are responsible. And now the questions in the comments made me think. (That is what connectivism is all about, is it?)

What happens, do they disconnect? That would be not very connective, would  it not?
But a very wise lady said: “…Happiness is contagious and negativity is contagious too. If we work on making negative people positive, we will waste our time and our energy….” (see comment of Hanan on part one)
Do the other people in the network have a responsibility to make him happy?  (Is that possible?)

Do the happy people go back to being happy again? MMmm, something frightening has happened, if this was a real fairy tale we could say: “And they lived long and happy” In real life this could be a sad history, of grieve and sorrow.
Do the people in the network help and comfort each other? Do they have to help, is this a responsibility? They are in a network and they do have influence.  If this really is a happy network they will be happy again, because happiness is contagious.

Where does the unhappy person go? Well may be this troll does observe what went wrong and will learn a lesson from it. Or may be is the troll stupid and just goes on being unhappy and making other people unhappy.

Why is s/he unhappy? Why does the this troll make other people unhappy is a better question.

Has s/he destroyed the happiness? Yes the troll has destroyed happiness. The troll was responsible and (as trolls will) acted irresponsible. What shall we do with this unhappy troll, throw out? Give a chance? Punnishment?

If you are a teacher you could tell in the classroom  part I and than ask the students to write a part II for the story.


27 thoughts on “The happy network, the fairy tale (part two) #cck11

  1. >Yes the troll has destroyed happiness. The troll was responsible and (as trolls will) acted irresponsible. What shall we do with this unhappy troll, throw out? Give a chance? Punnishment?

    I’m thinking that if the troll destroyed the happiness, then maybe they should not be allowed in the group, as the troll is destroying the unity of the group. If the fairy tale story took place in a network, the network might be able to tolerate more diversity including unhappy trolls, but it sounds like the unhappy troll behavour cascaded through a group instead, making everyone unhappy, and the only way might be to disconnect the troll, as S. Downes suggests. Would closing the group to the troll restore the group’s unity of happiness?

  2. We don’t need consensus but when there is a positive troll, connected people are interacting, socializing and learning.
    In the case of negative troll, if it impacts the mood of the network just for its own sake, better taking it off… but if it is for a better change, we should handle this transition to a successful change.

  3. I found this description of accountability/responsibility helpful:

    “To be accountable means to give a reckoning of, or to explain our behaviour, to justify our conduct. It means to demonstrate responsibility in the exercise of our duties. It means being transparent”.

    The full article is available at:

    How would responsibility be described in the fairy tale? Making people happy? Not making people unhappy? Who is responsible for someone’s happiness?

  4. @Hanan Thanks. I was beginning to think it was the troll’s responsibility to make other people happy! So I guess that if everyone is responsible for their own happiness, then a negative troll won’t affect them.

  5. Still … negativity can be so strong and contagious and it is easy to destroy than to build when connections are not enough strong.

    NB: Troll “can” be positive for the whole network even it looks negative at the first sight.

  6. @Hanan I like your thoughts on this. Can I ask you a couple more questions:

    What is the responsibility of the troll to the group?

    Is there any responsibility going the other way, from the group to the troll?

  7. The words responsibility and accountability are perhaps not the right words here. I think “humanity” or “human kindness” does describe a kind of caring that more is in place here. It is not a duty (“responsibility and accountability” do have a sphere of duty around them). It may be a reason to care, but it is up to you if you take care.
    The troll cannot lawfully accuse the group of neglect or too little care, he is responsible for his deeds as is every one.

  8. @Jaap I think that is a good choice, to move from accountability and responsibility to care and kindness. I think you are saying that the group can neglect the troll (or any other member for that matter), without a duty of kindness or care, that it is only the individual that has a duty.of kindness or care to the group.

    What would be the nature of the kindness and care that a troll (or any other member) should demonstrate to the group?

  9. @Kenm I agree with Hanan, The: Troll “can” be positive for the whole network even it looks negative at the first sight. It is an adventure and a chance or a danger to the group. No logical solution what to do as member of the group (groups do not act, persons act). As for the bad guy, he might need to remember his manners, or look for another group, or come back and discuss or talk. It is an open end of a story and I would love to make a class of students discuss all possible endings and ethical implications.
    What do you think the parties in the conflict must do?

  10. @Jaap I think it can be a very difficult problem. You’ve identified that a troll may be beneficial, so maybe the first step is to let it play out a little. My preference in conflict resolution is to talk it out. John Mak and I have discussed how to handle trolls on his blog, and I think he has a good approach – keep asking questions of them, try to get them talking. Another colleague wrote a whole paper on trolls (I posted the link on the FB group a few days ago) and her theory is that a troll isn’t a troll unless they know it, so maybe some people don’t know the effects of their sytle. I do worry about excluding some voices and closing the group to them.

  11. @Jaap I apologize in advance for using up more of your blog-space, but I wanted to share another thought based on the writing of T. Adorno in ‘Education after Auschwitz’. He says:

    “The single genuine power standing against the principle of Auschwitz is autonomy, if I might use the Kantian expression: the power of reflection, of self-determination, of not cooperating”.

    I put this statement here to see what you and others think of the ideas in it. I am particularly interested in the notion of ‘not cooperating’. What does that mean in the fairy-tale world? I interpret it within the context of the discussion here as an encouragement to be troll-like, even at the risk of making people unhappy in a fairy-tale world. But I wonder if I really understand what a troll is.

  12. Adorno writes about Auschwitz, the murder of millions of people. Not-cooperating and murder do not fit. Not-cooperation is the only way out of the powerless. In this story no one is powerless. A troll is a person deliberately commenting and screaming to annoy and offend. In a network one has to take care of being polite and to stand for opinions. Being a troll is counterproductive, because nobody listens to the message of the troll, every body only hears the yelling and screaming.

  13. Thanks. Maybe you are right, that Adorno’s ideas can’t be used out of their context, although I see that often oither ideas are borrowed, remixed, repurposed and fed forward (like connectionist ideas fed forward to connectivism). I was thinking that Adorno’s ideas around social norms, and how sometimes they can be used to marginalize the less powerful might be worth examining in the context of the fairy tale group.

    The first time I heard the word troll was in CCk08, fall of 2008 when it was used as a label for Catherine Fitzpatrick. I had to look up the meaning in Wikipedia, and even after reading the description there I did not find that it was appropriate to call her that name. She challenged me on a couple of things I said, and I ended up agreeing with her. I think calling her a troll was an attempt to silence her, as she was ‘not cooperating’ with the ideas of several people including the facilitators. I find that sometimes disagreement can get noisy, but it is not necessarily counterproductive.

  14. My understanding of the word ‘troll’ is that it only carries negative connotations. It is a targetted attempt to prey on others, particularly the fragile, with malicious intent’ (most notoriously the article written by Mattathias Schwartz following the death by suicide of a youth targetted on online forums) “…… In the late 1980s, Internet users adopted the word “troll” to denote someone who intentionally disrupts online communities. Early trolling was relatively innocuous, however as our emotional investment in the Internet has grown, trolling has evolved from ironic solo skit to vicious group hunt. Today the Internet is a mass medium for defining who we are. Teenagers groom their MySpace profiles as intensely as their hair, anyone seeking work or love can expect to be Googled. “Lulz” is how trolls keep score. A corruption of “LOL” or “laugh out loud,” “lulz” means the joy of disrupting another’s emotional equilibrium. “Lulz is watching someone lose their mind at their computer 2,000 miles away while you chat with friends and laugh,” said one ex-troll. Technology, apparently, does more than harness the wisdom of the crowd. It can intensify its hatred as well…..” The rise of Malwebolence, New York Times, by Mattathias Schwartz Friday, August 1, 2008

    The ‘Urban Dictionary’ carries an interestingly colloquial definiton with which most Aussies would probably agree: “….Being a prick on the internet because you can….”

    While I admire the gentle John Mak’s strategy (shared by Ken) of engaging them, it is my opinion that engaging trolls in dialogue is counter productive because it is response they thrive upon. I myself would ignore them, as Scott suggested, be non-cooperative. However it is not the hardened cynics like myself who need to be protected, it is the fragile, the idealists and very frequently the young and isolated who are best served by a facilitator with a delete button. Perhaps no MOOC participants would fall into this category, I am generalising on forums in general. I do remember George Siemen’s ( I think) posting guidelines for forum behaviour somewhere. Perhaps a published code of conduct would be in order for the benefit of anti social nodes. Or is that too schoolish ?

    I see a marked difference between being provocative and being a troll. The former can be thought provoking, challenging and productive, the latter is the sign of a very unfulfilled individual. For me the beauty of an online network is the freedom of choice. I have no power over what someone says, however I do have power over how I respond to that person. Bullies can be ignored online, while in RL it is not always so easy.
    I always enjoy listening to your perspectives Jaap.

  15. @Ken, It’s what I called “positive troll” … not all trolls are destructive! If one troll didn’t agree with the whole group and the group “quarantines” him/her… it is safer to change the land and start a new “network life” and build whatever s/he believes in. SOMETIMES the group may act as the body when he rejects the pacemaker placed to save person’s life! Even the pacemaker is necessary, the intelligence of the body is to reject all strange things in it.

  16. @Hanan Thanks, when I read your example I immediately thought of Socrates and Athens. As I understand the story, Socrates’ behaviour was somewhat troll-like and he was rejected by the majority and the powerful in Athenian society, and was killed by them. Afterwards Athens went down too. Maybe there is a lesson in it: Don’t reject your pacemakers.

  17. Thank you for your very clear and elaborate answer. I agree (with Hanan saying the same) don’t try to negotiate with a troll. Because negativity is contagious and because the reason you mention, that ignoring is the best remedy.

  18. Hello Jaap,
    Apologies for not signing my RL name. I mistakenly believed my gravatar was linked only to my Blogger account, however it appears by default to go to an inactive WordPress site when I post on WordPress blogs. I see you have searched for my blog and found the inactive one. My current blog is at:
    if you’re interested. At least there’s something to read there other than “Hello World”.
    Susan O’Grady

  19. Hi Jaap – really enjoyed this post & the ensuing conversation!

    You wrote – “A troll is a person deliberately commenting and screaming to annoy and offend.”

    I did a bit of quick and dirty research and it seems that the word ‘troll’ originated from the fishing term ‘trolling’ – basically ‘baiting’ for a response. How we define ‘trolling’ in the context of online forums is dependent on how far we take the metaphor! Are we saying that trolling incorporates an element of dishonesty – ‘tricking’ people into biting? Are we in agreement that a troll’s motive is something other than mutual benefit? The crew of the fishing boat certainly aren’t aiming to educate the fish! But there is a danger here in adopting the metaphor too religiously. We can’t make assumptions about others’ motives. If we *perceive* someone is trolling, the best option for our own happiness is surely to be thankful that we are more sentient than a fish, and can choose not to bite.

    Ken and Hanan raised interesting questions about happiness and responsibility: “nobody is responsible for someone’s happiness, each person must see inward and not outward!” (Hanan). I would like to go even further and to suggest that other people do not actually influence our emotions; this may seem like a rather Vulcan thing to say (those who’ve seen my Facebook avatar may raise a smile here) but it is something I truly believe; it is not external events that affect our happiness, it is our own beliefs about such events.

    I think Ken, Jaap, John Mak and others have raised some useful and practical points about useful ways to respond to provocation, and I would be really against the ‘silencing of trolls’ – I like a bit of adventure I do 🙂

  20. Hi Lindsay, I like your research on trolls. Gave me inspiration to find a source on trolls, J.J.R. Tolkien, the Hobbit, p 35-38 mentions trolls. These trolls want to eat hobbits and the dwarfs. The trolls are defeated by the sun, trolls will change into stones when they are in sunlight. Maybe here is a lesson.
    Provocation (by trolls or other people) sometimes helps to see a truth.
    I do share your Vulcan view on external events not causing emotions, it is also the view of Albert Ellis. Hope your adventures end with “happily ever after”

  21. >If we *perceive* someone is trolling, the best option for our own happiness is surely to be thankful that we are more sentient than a fish, and can choose not to bite.

    Too funny! Maybe some are not more sentient than fish? (I prefer the term provocateur, myself)

  22. >These trolls want to eat hobbits and the dwarfs. The trolls are defeated by the sun, trolls will change into stones when they are in sunlight. Maybe here is a lesson.

    For me, some lessons arising from this might be:

    “Trolls are hungry, and rock-solid in the sun”

    “Even Trolls can suffer from sun-damage – use sun-screen”

    “Dwarfs and Hobbits must reside at the lower end of the food chain – somewhat like fish, perhaps”

    “A bit of sun will ease the appetites of the Troll”

    “the Trolling Stones – a learning theory for the Digital Age”

    Anybody got any other ideas about this?

  23. You know of Albert Ellis…?!!

    Albert Ellis has pulled me through many of life’s little struggles 😀

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