The internet is a vast virtual space. Everyone knows that. More people join the virtual world every day. Everyone knows that too. What people DON’T know is that not everyone who joins is a normal person. Yes, I speak of the most dreaded kind of netizen – The Troll.
The trolls intrigue me. They are rude, argue for arguments sake and basically do undesirable things. They are irritating to a fault. When you are a person who loves correct punctuation, they can be your WORST nightmare.
But is that it? Are they just wasted souls who don’t give a damn about what others think of them and simply spam or irritate others? We can bear with that. Hell, every social networking site has a feature to block them. You need never hear from them again. But trolls, being trolls, will create another profile and come after you. This, on the other hand, cannot be resolved. Not unless websites start taking biometric data for each account from every user. But I digress. Our question was – is that all trolls are? A minor nuisance to the society who can be ignored if we so choose? Frankly, I believe not.
Why? I will take a long winded scenic tour through the world of what is and what-nots and then reach the point. No, you can’t skip to the section where I start making sense. Yes, it is my wont.
Anyway, let us start. I made a post on storage media recently. As we all know, the digital data in the whole world is now in zeta bytes (according to Cisco, anyway). There are server farms for every major company out there which store all the data it can find about any of us. Though it can be misused, they are only aimed at bombarding us with ads. The amount of data stored is almost incomprehensible. Those companies which do not have these server farms can avail one from web based companies like Amazon etc. My point? There is a flow of information like never before seen on Earth (unless Atlantis existed).
This information is transported through wired and wireless connections to your mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop, iPod, any other damn device you can think of. Now, consider this. You have the official Facebook app for Android installed on your phone and your tablet. You have the iOS version on your iPod. You can access Facebook from your browser in your desktop and laptop. With me so far? Good.
Now, consider (heart patients and easily excitable people, please skip) a troll being on your friend list. Let’s say the said troll has a tendency to type “……….” instead of a simple period. As the more observant of you may have counted, you have 5 devices in your possession. Each device updates it’s application independently. Imagine (again, excitable people, careful) that the troll spams your post with one of his signature 10 period punctuation. Replicating this information on every device implies you have to send 10 times as much data to each device (10 full stops instead of just 1). 5 devices => 50 full stops instead of just 5. You get my point, right?
Let us assume you have 500 friends (a safe assumption) to whom this post is visible. Assume each friend has each of these 5 devices. If you do the math (correctly), you will see that 25,000 full stops are sent on the whole instead of just 2,500 which would have been enough to get the meaning across. Now, considering Facebook, we set your privacy to public on all your posts (don’t freak out, just consider it). Let’s say you use some very common word in your post (like spoon?). Let us say there are a meager 1000 people searching for “spoon” on Google, Bing, Yahoo and any other major search engines. I will consider only Google and Bing for this example. Let us say you are a famous web 2.0 journalist whose technorati, Page Rank and whatever ratings are through the roof (or way underground depending on which is better). Your results will definitely rank higher. Let’s say each of these 1000 people click through to see your post in it’s entirety (with the comment from the troll). Again, doing the math (correctly), we see that 20,000 full stops are sent instead of just 2000.
Does all this data seem farcical to you? Maybe you are not convinced? Ok, check this out. Each troll makes more than one comment every day. Each comment contains more than one unwanted punctuation (!!!!!!!!! is a good example). Even if your compression rate reduces ALL of these punctuation blocks to a single byte, at the rate of 25,000 possible bytes for every person, you have 25 KB of wasted data. Seems small doesn’t it? Ok, here is some *more* math for you. On an average (from my experience), every one in 50 friends for every person is a troll. At that rate, from your imaginary 500 friends, 10 will be trolls. Each troll may/may not post troll-ish comments every day. Let’s assume they do. This means 250 KB of data is sent for just punctuation. Agreed? Now, there are 700 million users on Facebook. At the rate we previously assumed, we have 14 million trolls. Since this number seems too small to be true, we shall consider that all 14 million trolls post the signature 10 period punctuation every day. That is 14 MB of data wasted. Now, since this data is viewed by, let’s say, all 700 million members (it’s a safe assumption that every member will have ONLY 1 troll on their friend list), we have 7 GB of data (10 x 700 million).
Of course, most of this data is just numbers I pulled out of thin air. But, that is not the point. What I’m trying to put across is that trolls are not just harmless, irritating online avatars whom you can ignore and be done with. They are a true menace to the developed world since their idiocy leads to wastage of data, bandwidth and ultimately, more pollution (data centers generate a LOT of CO2 apparently). How do we rid the world of this problem? Do we need to form a convention for dealing with trolls? Just as we have for dealing with climate, nuclear wastage and terrorism?
My brainwave? Simple. Make them use Twitter. Limit their idiocy to 140 characters. If there exists a fool who will actually waste 10 characters from 140 for punctuation and then continue his tweet to the next one, people will hate him. They will not follow him. Hence, his data will not be distributed onto their various devices. Unlike Facebook or G+ where a comment on a post from a famous personality will be visible to one and all who view the post, Twitter posts are visible to those who wish to see them. There are no comment forums. It is the bare backbone of intellectual communication. Trolls will be weeded out with efficiency. Their data will not be distributed among the unwise netizens. The world shall be a better place.
Yeah, I’m still pro-Twitter 😛