Re: Troll vs. Crank

From: David Cressey <>
Date: Sat, 17 Jun 2006 13:10:19 GMT
Message-ID: <%aTkg.156$k27.113_at_trndny06>

"Marshall" <> wrote in message
> Sometimes our vocabulary limits our understanding.
> (The "Sapir-Whorf hypothesis".) I think this has been
> happening to me lately.
> Most people are familiar with what a "troll" is.
> To me, the defining characteristic of a troll is that he speaks not
> in good faith. That is, he doesn't believe his own arguments; they
> are made simply for provocation.
> But until lately, I haven't really had a concept, or a term, to
> describe
> someone who *does* believe his own posts, but whose posts are
> nonetheless of no redeeming value. (I am unclear how this hole
> in my understanding has persisted for so long--an excess of
> faith in human nature, perhaps. I am also beginning to believe
> I posess a certain gullibility.)
> In any event, everyone else probably already knows this, but I
> present what is a relatively new concept to me: the crank.
> Trolls seem to get all the press, and all the attention. But
> it strikes me that cranks are actually distinctly more numerous.
> (Real trolls are relatively rare in this newsgroup; we generally
> have several cranks at any given moment.)
> In any event, consciousness of this concept of "crank" has
> improved my ability to interpret what I read in the group.
> Since the concept is much publicized, (at least relative to
> trollhood) I thought that perhaps the idea would be useful
> to anyone else who, like me, somehow managed to miss
> it for so long.
> Marshall

Thanks for providing the wiki on "crank". I had only seen the term used in this newsgroup in a context like this: "Anyone who would provide a solution based on such incomplete requirements is a crank". This is intended to persuade cranks to avoid answering requests for help.

The problem is that it catches too many non cranks in the net. If designing in the face of evolving requirements is something only a crank would do, then most designers are cranks.

To be fair, many of us from time to time respond to to requests for help with "Here is the answer" rather than "try this, you might like it." The former has something of the aura of a crank about it, given that the problem statement in a newsgroup is generally too terse to be definitive.

It's also the case that, once in a blue moon, the crank is right and the thundering herd is wrong. Here the water gets too deep for me. Received on Sat Jun 17 2006 - 15:10:19 CEST

Original text of this message