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Lately I have seen various comments overly focused on small details of the question/answer, which, rather than being aimed at improving the content, seem to me borderline trolling.

when it happened to me I answered the first one and then ignored the following. However, since I am not sure the user is really trying to troll or simply being overzealous with commenting, what could be a better way to deal with this situation?

EDIT: To give an idea of the type of comments I am referring to, let's say the question contains the sentence "On a street a couple of persons..." and a photo of 2 adults and 1 kid on a sidewalk. The comment would be "The photo shows 3 persons!" and then afterwards "but they are not on the street, they are on the sidewalk"

EDIT 2: For a real example see my answer here and RonJohn's comments, followed by Geoff's one.

EDIT 3: Just another example of similar behavior.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ When meeting a troll or seeing a comment that looks like trolling I normally ignore it ("Don't feed the troll.") and flag it as "not constructive". Though I am not sure if we are talking about the same kind of comments. When encountering such comments they often contain a lot of Capslock or some profanities. Some examples would be nice, if you can find some and maybe abstract them. $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name May 15 '17 at 10:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Secespitus, I missed the possibilit to flag it as "not constructive". good point $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica May 15 '17 at 10:45
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    $\begingroup$ It would grandly help the situation if you could provide links to a few of said situations. Your example in the EDIT is understandable enough, but seems rather extreme to my experiences - so I may be painted sceptic :/ $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T May 15 '17 at 13:28
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    $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T, done $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica May 15 '17 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, that's just a couple of people who've missed one of the key guidelines: "don't be a pillock". $\endgroup$ – Separatrix May 15 '17 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ Note that comments can be deleted at any time for any reason. If they are truly relevant, consider incorporating them into the question proper. $\endgroup$ – a CVn May 15 '17 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ I see many comments like that, just ask them politely to move along, eventually they go annoy someone else $\endgroup$ – Kilisi May 16 '17 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ Related: worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4111/… $\endgroup$ – apaul Jun 20 '17 at 19:11
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Take the time to prevent misunderstanding of your question/answer

It seems obvious, to me, that the mentioned users did take the image for more than it actually is. As you made clear in a comment, the image was taken from a re-enactment - looking at it closer, probably at some festivities of an older town or maybe a larger medieval fair.

While these users could've taken the time to question the image and thus realize that there's obvious markings for parking spots on the cobbles, you could've also added a line or two explaining the situation on the image and where it was taken (which incidentally will also help disabled people browse this site, as they might not be able to look at a picture the same way other people can..1).

So, yes they are nitpicking on the wrong details.

But the best way to prevent this sort of thing happening, is to make sure people understand what you're trying to say. E.g. by elaborating in a short paragraph on a special word, fancy phrase, additional picture.

1In case you or really anyone needs further motivation to do a proper job when presenting information on the internet.

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It's probably not trolling, it's more likely people picking up on specific details that are perhaps related to something they have an interest in or simply catch their attention.

There's trolling and theirs trolling and sometimes they'res simply not being able to see past a specific detail that's catching the attention. Not seeing the wood for the trees if you like.

As I'm sure you're aware my spelling in the line above is deliberate (please don't change it or the point gets lost). I know that about half the people on this site will be unable to read through it without grinding their teeth and that's often the problem that's causing such comments. People see different things, I know people who can't cope with signs in comic sans. I struggle with people who can't get they're/their/there and you're/your correct. Other people might not have the same triggers as you, but they get upset because an image has an incorrect description for example.

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    $\begingroup$ I think you're making a false equivalence with the spelling thing, since the SE encourages users to edit to correct spelling. (Incidentally, the sarcastic me wanted to put spelling errors in this comment, but the spelling-Nazi me wouldn't have it.) $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre May 15 '17 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre, I think perhaps some more concrete examples are required, but possibly I'm particularly forgiving. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix May 15 '17 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ Separatix, I'm pretty sure Frostfyre refers to e.g. "There's trolling and theirs trolling". $\endgroup$ – a CVn May 15 '17 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling there are now the actual examples in the question which weren't there at the time, hence my comment on that $\endgroup$ – Separatrix May 15 '17 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre I'd have to agree, I have had people leave comments on spelling/grammar, who are fully capable (judging by their reputation) of editing my question. So why not edit the question and leave a comment on the edit, instead of comment on the original question. It would be far more constructive. $\endgroup$ – Firelight Jun 2 '17 at 10:57
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I think in this particular case it isn't exactly trolling. It's just somewhat argumentative users digging their heels in about something that doesn't really matter.

More or less just one of these:
https://xkcd.com/386/

enter image description here

The best course of action is to ignore them, eventually they'll get bored and leave it be. If things get out of hand or the comments keep coming feel free to flag one of the comments for moderator intervention.

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Trolling is usually a power struggle

That usually takes the form of "can I get someone angry?" Because of how SE is built, the damage to content by trolls are usually very limited. However, that doesn't stop them from wasting other users time since any other form of harassment dies to the "offensive/unconstructive" flags.

Determining if someone is a troll of the timewasting variety usually requires longer observation periods. A single comment usually isn't enough to unambiguously determine intent. If there's a pattern of comments intended to waste time, yep, it's a troll. If not, it's probably someone who doesn't know better.

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  • $\begingroup$ Trolling isn't a waste of time when we get badges for handling it. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre May 15 '17 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre and as someone who gets lots of Internet points from handling trolling/bad behavior, your comment surprises me not in the least :) $\endgroup$ – Green May 15 '17 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ for this user I have noticed kind of a pattern in commenting over fine details which seem not to add value to the discussion. But the observation period is short and I am not sure it is perceived as such by others, too. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica May 15 '17 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch If you are speaking of RonJohn, I notice the same thing; overly argumentative to no useful end at all. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica May 27 '17 at 20:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Amadeus, and yet another one is come, with the same attitude.... $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Jun 1 '17 at 11:56

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