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I have recently posted the following question:

How to handle bad impressions when having unfortunate first + last name combinations when presenting yourself digitally?

And some of the comments and voting suggest that it is being perceived as a "troll question". For instance there are comments like:

Bad attempt at trolling. Not appropriate. If I had voting privileges I'd vote to close obvious troll thread.

and

... that's what I thought too, but check out the asker's website, that's a lot of work to put in just for one troll question

Cleary there are people that think that the question is a "troll question" while other people initially thought so but changed their minds after a second moment.

So, my question is:

How should I, the author of the question, react/do if my question is being perceived as being in this "troll question" grey area?

I am not sure if changing the phrasing would help, because I think the cause of all this is the content of the question. My immediate approach was to ask for clarifications, but I am not sure if the other party was fair on the criticism. I thought about deleting the question, but I did not want to and I am not sure if I should wait for this to escalate to the point where the question gets closed.

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    Seems to me that there were just 2 users who thought that, one of which already removed their comment... besides, your post has no close votes, so it seems that the "troll panic" faded away. – DarkCygnus Jul 5 '18 at 17:37
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First of all, welcome to The Workplace. Glad to have you here. :)

Sorry for the bad experience you have had with your question being called a troll. If such a thing were to happen again, flag the comment as rude or abusive. Moderators will take care of it. Avoid engaging in a prolonged discussion or argument over the issue.

In this case, only 2 users suspected the post to be a troll, of which the second user (AakashM) even posted a link to your website to "prove" that you are not a troll. It is also possible that he tacked the "I thought so too" just to diffuse the situation and avoid a confrontation with the previous user, so I would cut him some slack there.

Even if things had turned out worse with multiple users suspecting the question to be a troll and closing your question, you have the option of raising a flag for moderator attention where you can explain the problem and we will deal with it. You also have the option of bringing it up on meta, as you have done now. (Thank you for that!)

We have deleted all the obsolete comments from the post, leaving only those which suggest improvements or ask for clarification. When you have finished addressing those, you may flag the post again requesting to cleanup the comments if you wish.

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    You have perfectly divined my thoughts. – AakashM Jul 6 '18 at 7:57
  • I'm not really a member here but I don't really see why those comments should be flagged as R/A. Maybe flag them for mod attention or No Longer Needed but R/A seems a bit extreme. – TheLethalCompany Jul 9 '18 at 16:12
  • @TheLethalCoder Are you suggesting that calling someone a troll is not rude or abusive? – Masked Man Jul 9 '18 at 16:21
  • @MaskedMan Depends on the context really, I'm just saying going straight to R/A seems a bit excessive in my opinion. – TheLethalCompany Jul 9 '18 at 16:22
  • @TheLethalCoder It does not depend on the context, it's never worth doing. Telling the querent that you suspect them of telling believable lies just to have a laugh at people trying to figure out whether to believe you is something you can't do in good faith. Doesn't even help if you're right; an actual troll gets exactly what they want, while an actual querent's first experience with StackExchange is toxic. – Stop Being Evil Jul 10 '18 at 0:24
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Welcome to the workplace Ian. You came to the right place for your question.

We have two rules that we go by above all others:

  1. Be Nice
  2. Assume good intent

Calling your question a troll post is out of line, and you should flag any such comments for a moderator. You can also come into chat and alert the people in there for good measure.

For refining your post, either you, or another user can edit it. Again, coming in here or to chat for help with that is also appropriate.

I'm sorry your initial experience in here has not been a good one. Please give us a chance to correct any negative impressions you may have gotten.

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Avoid highly-specific examples, go for something more general

Remove the examples from your question and describe the problem in a more general way, or create obscured examples (e.g. "My first name is Abcd and my last name is Efgh and 'cdef' is an offensive word" [1]).

Why?

  • Specific examples make your question too specific to your scenario, and thus less helpful to others with a similar (but not identical) problem.
  • ... especially when the answers choose to focus on the example instead of providing more general advice.
  • It's offensive / click-baity / controversial / whatever - making a word a bunch of stars doesn't really do much to hide what you've written there, which is a word that doesn't really belong in a post on this site. If you need to star out a word, you're probably on the wrong track.
  • This is what makes some people think it's trolling. It doesn't really matter whether or not it actually is trolling, or whether the comments telling you so is inappropriate.
  • You're more likely to, at some point in the future, decide you want to try to remove these personal details from the internet - best case you obscure it, but then there can still be a bunch of comments and answers by others make what it was clear. Or you disassociate the post, which is allowed, but not really desirable. Worst case you try to delete the post, which you can't do, so that'll probably turn into an edit war and locks and bans and basically just a bunch of stuff we really don't want.

[1]: I considered making such an edit myself, but the specific way of obscuring it used above seems ... okay, but not particularly great, and some might disagree with editing out those details, so I ultimately decided against it. You're welcome to do it yourself though, especially if you can think of a better way to obscure it.

Note: I think this is not specifically a problem with looks-like-trolling questions, and I'm not saying we should treat looks-like-trolling questions fundamentally differently from other questions - plenty of questions focus too much on the specific details of the situation instead of describing the problem more generally, which makes the question and answers too specific to the situation and not all that useful to others. But the fact that it looks like trolling might give more motivation to edit it.

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