Flamebait is a message posted to a public Internet discussion group, such as a forum, newsgroup or mailing list, with the intent of provoking an angry response (a "flame") or argument over a topic the poster often has no real interest in. While flaming can occur as a result of legitimate debates or grievances, flamebait implies the intentional posting of inflammatory rhetoric or images.
As stated, flaming can stem from a variety of issues, including misunderstandings, frustration, and perceptions of unfairness. One motive (from trolls especially) is the desire for attention and for entertainment derived at the expense of others. Posted flamebait can provide the poster with a controlled trigger-and-response setting in which to anonymously engage in conflicts and indulge in aggressive behavior without facing the consequences that such behavior might bring in a face-to-face encounter. In other instances, flamebait may be used to reduce a forum's use by angering the forum users.
A flame war results when one or more users engages in provocative responses to the originally posted flamebait. Flame wars often draw in many users (including those trying to diffuse the flame war) and can overshadow regular forum discussion if left unchecked.
Resolving a flame war can be difficult, as it is often hard to determine who is really responsible for the degradation of a reasonable discussion into flame war. Someone who posts a contrary opinion in a strongly focused discussion forum may be easily labeled a "baiter", "flamer", or "troll". Therefore, it seems important to make the rules and focus of a discussion forum public to avoid misconceptions about its accepted use.
An approach to resolving a flame war or responding to flaming is to communicate openly with the offending users. Acknowledging mistakes, offering to help resolve the disagreement, making clear, reasoned arguments, and even self-deprecation have all been noted as worthwhile strategies to end such disputes. However, others prefer to simply ignore flaming, noting that, in many cases, if the flamebait receives no attention, it will quickly be forgotten as forum discussions carry on. Unfortunately, this can motivate trolls to intensify their activities, creating additional distractions.
Taking the bait or feeding the troll refers to someone who responds to the original message regardless of whether they are aware the original message was intended to provoke a response. Often when someone takes the bait, others will point out to them YHBT for "You have been trolled", or reply with "don't feed the trolls." Forum users will also frequently "rate" the troll as means of acknowledgment, with statements such as "0/10, obvious troll is obvious", or "10/10, I raged."