When I first started posting in forums I was in complete innocence as to the online phenomenon of 'trolls'.
A little wiser now I think it is valuable to be able to spot them as they can wreak havoc,not only on a thread but in the whole forum.

These are some insights I have about them.

Usually they don't go to much trouble to create a persona,they just use any word and don't bother with an avatar.However some of the more inventive ones do go to the trouble of creating a fake identity.

They are usually unknown to the members who regularly post in the forum and have put their time and energy into genuinely discussing issues and events in order to increase their (and everyone else's) knowledge.

Trolls have not contributed to these conversations in any meaningful way.

Their contributions are usually vitriolic or they belittle using sarcasm.Personal attack is also popular.Its easy to indulge one's shadow side when anonymous.

How to deal with them? Particularly in a forum that upholds freedom of speech.

Ignore them.They usually fade away with lack of oxygen.

Pound them.They usually don't have the strength of character to deal with someone who has it.Online bullies tend to cave easily.

Use them to sharpen your rhetorical skills.You can never have too much wit or pithy comments.

Challenge their anonymous status.They generally don't like to be called on what they do or what they are.That is,trolls.

Have fun with it.Keep it light.After all,they are a fact of online life.