...responding to them beyond the point where it's obviously a mental health issue or deliberate baiting, I really don't.
We all have our own different levels of when it's acceptable to reply. And they come from many different factors.
This list is not all-inclusive, only what I can think of:
-different levels of patience -different levels of willingness to engage in an argument -different levels for attempting to explain "to someone" while ignoring the actual poster -different levels of personal interest in the subject -one can learn more themselves by writing a post... the troll can be used as a jumping off point, therefore the post isn't even really a reply to the troll... even if the board software says it is -personal entertainment -personal procrastination of other tasks -personal hobby -personal way of dealing with boredom or resting one's mind
The point is... to think that every post in reply to a troll is actually intended to engage the troll at all... is missing a lot of the different motivations people have for using message boards and engaging in conversation.
I mean, next year it'll be 20 years since people started trying to explain stuff to Phat that he still doesn't want to understand.
This seems to assume that the goal is to get Phat to understand things.
My whole point is that this doesn't have to be goal, and likely isn't for many posters.
Let's say you think the earth is round, because you're normal.. but you're very interested in why some people think the earth is flat. Wouldn't you go around discussing things with people who think the world is flat?
What if you wanted to work on your own personal levels of patience, self-control and being able to express yourself clearly? It's pretty easy to do this with someone who is reasonable. But it's a challenge to see if you can do it with someone who is unreasonable.
If I ask my wife to sit and discuss something with me... just so I can "work on being patient..." it's highly likely to bore the fuck out of her. But if I do something like that here... with an endless supply of silly people looking to argue silly points... I can gain the training/experience/self-improvement I'm looking for without even irking any regular people who don't deserve it.
By all means... if YOU are bored/done/had-enough with trolls... do not engage. It would be rather ridiculous if you continued. But, to draw some line that "I'M done with them for my own reasons... therefore EVERYONE should be done with them..." is kind of equally ridiculous.