Friday, May 19, 2006

What is flaming and who is doing it ???

Occasionally, flamers wish to upset and offend other members of the forum, in which case they are trolls. Most often however, flames are angry or insulting messages transmitted by people who have strong feelings about a subject. Finally, some consider flaming to be a great way to let off steam, though the receiving party may be less than pleased.

Similarly, a normal, non-flame message may have elements of a flame -- it may be hostile, for example -- but it is not a flame if it is seriously intended to advance the discussion.

Interforum flame wars

While most flame wars occur within a single message board, forum, or community, sometimes flame wars will erupt between two separate forums (especially when both forums are centered around similar subjects). This may happen in a variety of ways:

  • A member of Forum A leaves on bad terms, joins Forum B and flames Forum A. Members of Forum B side with their new member, then proceed to also bash Forum A (regardless of any personal knowledge of the workings of that forum). Members from Forum A may then begin to flame Forum B, et cetera

Causes of flaming

There is no general agreement on the causes of flaming, although a recent study has led to somewhat conclusive evidence. Some common hypothesises are:

  1. Egocentrism causes us to think we know a writer's tone 90% of the time, although we only are correct about 56% of the time. This leads us to misinterpretation of the writer's intended meaning, causing flame wars as well as serious litigation.
  2. The lack of body language and voice inflection make it difficult to show emotions in a nuanced way, and the relative anonymity means that it is felt less dangerous to use heated language.
  3. In forums and chats, there is usually no other way to express your opinion than by writing. Not writing can be interpreted as "giving up". And opinions and ideas stated a long time ago can be forgotten, causing a need to repeat them. According to this view, a good system for Computer Supported Argument Visualisation (CSAV) might help to clarify the issues without repetition. Sometimes, however, there is a disagreement on so fundamental criteria, that it is not even possible to agree on a structure of the issues and arguments.
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