There is no objective definition of trolling other than as the initiation of troll-sysop struggle by a faction unconcerned with, or intending to challenge, infrastructure owners trust as the basis of authority. Any group or individual that utters anything considered to be unreasonable or disruptive by any other group or individual may be accused (reactive) of trolling. Sysop vandalism or sysop vigilantiism is a very typical reaction - forms of troll-formative injustice that almost inevitably feed the struggle and lead to such phenomena as the Wikipedia Vicious Cycle.
If the labelling and reaction happens consistently some end users may come to be regarded as trolls (a reflective possibility as people compare many edits by them or believed to be by them) or even to regard themselves as trolls (the reflexive possibility as people accept this as a valid self-claim). All troll culture is defined by people who have made this final valid self-claim - claims by persons who resent being called trolls cannot serve to define the culture though they have had a role in the discourse in wiki troll culture where trolling is the central action. The conflict-driven view of wiki is covered separately. See also wheat rolls for a new troll point of view on the question of troll identity.
A trollsnest is some kind of support or wiki base from which instructional capital is drawn, and possibly other forms of support. A declaration that "we, trolls..." are involved or doing something is usually an open association of an action with a particular nest or faction.
 a feminist paper taking a rational anti-troll view
Much narrower definitions are in use in specific forums, and some of these are even legitimate. In Searching for Safety Online: Managing "Trolling" in a Feminist Forum, , the typical non-operational definition of "the individual who baits and provokes other group members, often with the result of drawing them into fruitless argument and diverting attention from the stated purposes of the group" is extended into a more operational definition of a troller: one entering "feminist and other non-mainstream online forums" with an obligation to "balance inclusive ideals against the need for protection and safety, a tension that can be exploited by disruptive elements to generate intragroup conflict." While this prejudges the motive of the so-called troller, there are legitimate biological reasons to believe that males may be motivated to enter such forums and show off by "attempting to disrupt their discussion space", e.g. by using: - "Outward manifestations of sincerity" - "Flame bait" - "Attempts to provoke futile argument" - "Ideological manipulation"
These ideas can be understood and ethical trolls may seek "to understand how such behavior might be minimized and managed in general" without accepting questionable notions like vulnerable [[online community]". Perhaps instead that of defensible space.
Provocative actions in turn provoke predictable, if not justifiable: - "Calls for administrative banning" - "Calls to ignore the user voluntarily" - "Refuting the antagonist’s claims" - "Insulting the antagonist" - "Negotiating what is appropriate"
They offer a few standard responses which avoid sysop vandalism and sysop vigilantiism, commendable in the face of extreme provocation. Many key operational distinctions are covered in this paper, e.g. "non-specific use of obscenities was considered to be emphatic, while obscenities directed at a specific person were considered hostile." The paper as a whole reflects a thoughtful balance of concerns, and it concludes "by suggesting several pro-active interventions that might help to forestall a vulnerable group from being harassed, yet not squelch debate."
- "educate users about trolling" expecially "populations... vulnerable for other reasons" - "warn users about the patterns that trollers follow" - "inform them of the lack of anonymity of Internet communication" - "lead users to reflect before responding hastily to provocative messages" - "articulate policies, guidelines for appropriate participation, and penalties for violating those guidelines, in advance of harassment episodes" - consider "stricter centralized moderation" (Herring, 2000), open politics in force - make technological filters, e.g. killfiles, available to more users - be aware that "social damage can effectively be done to individuals without their reading the offending post (Dibbell, 1993)"
The most useful advice is to "distinguish clearly between cooperative debate (however heated) and uncooperative provocation (however masked)." The paper leaves it clear that the administrative norms or goals of the group are not open to serious challenge, and makes no mention of the moderator protocol used to decide who makes decisions.
 trolls' view
Real live trolls generally consider the use of the word trolling to be ridiculous.
In trollish, the verb trolling can mean literally any action and is very often used. A troll organization may narrow the definition. The world trolling anarchization, for instance, encourages all forms of trolling, by which they mean literally anything that raises doubt - but nothing that reduces it unless it's contesting the need to keep an open issue to deal with it.
In Mediawiki and the public sphere, Sabina Romlin equates unpopular or disturbing statements with political dissent and argues it can't be excluded with simple rulesets, moderation or administrative bans, simply because diverse views must be tolerated in a democracy. All large public wikis are political wikis in that they influence the beliefs of a large number of people, and accordingly must be run by rules appropriate to the public sphere.
Where trolls and their antagonists agree is that "more research is needed on trolling and online harassment", though trolls insist it must mostly focus on distinguishing these two very different phenomena, i.e. ethical troll versus casual troller.
Smaller forums which have more legitimate need for defensible space seem to need special attention. "In particular, cross-context studies are needed to determine if attempts at trolling are different when mainstream groups are the target rather than minority groups, and how the availability of technical tools that give participants greater control over the online environment affects trolling. Research is also needed to compare how online groups respond to disruptive individuals with face-to-face groups in such contexts as classes, office meetings, support groups, and social events. We suspect that reduction in cues in computer-mediated environments may require a more formal social structure than is necessary in co-present situations, in order to ensure that civility, safety, and freedom can coexist."