I get the occasional accusation that this site,
while claiming to be about resisting and surviving flaming, is actually intended
as a training course for would-be flamers.
I can understand that from critics
who haven't actually bothered to read what's on the pages (most of them), but
lest there be any misunderstanding, let us explore the profit and loss account
of the flamer.
Now, flamers really do come in all shapes and sizes, ages,
genders and life choices. I can believe the Mom who claimed her three year old's
first email was a flame, and I've come across many who are really old enough to
know better. But rather than simply list a bunch of risks and gains, I thought
it might be more interesting to select a few 'classic cases' - and leave it to
you to see which you can relate to.
Warning - these examples are based,
loosely, on real people, but enough detail has been changed to ensure they can
read here and not realise (OK lots0?). These are sweeping generalizations, intended
to make a point and encourage a bit of lateral thinking. I repeat, flamers come
in all shapes and sizes; always try to work out who you are dealing with.
The Ambitious Geek
Flaming was born in the early days of Usenet, a direct
descendant of some cro-magnon dweeb in days of yore. To this day, some academics
want to 'reclaim' flaming as an art form. Well, that's academics for you! University
still nurtures lonely, highly intelligent people, but fails to give them social
skills. Like any other group, they have fears and insecurities, but their territory
is often the Internet. More real than a city bus station, they know its strengths,
it's weaknesses, its Dark Side and it's opportunities to wield power.
they often don't appreciate is its size; they cannot tell the difference between
being a big fish in a small pond - or being a bit of plankton in Google's supplementary
results. They get delusions of grandeur. Their endless repetitive posts, with
their anime avatars and cliche signatures are just a virtual form of graffitti
- telling the world they exist.
There are fewer of them than a few years
ago; simply because the Internet is more a part of the real world, and dinosaurs
are on their way out. This group now includes females as well as males (not that
seems to reduce the level of misogyny).
AGs live in a very small world,
and they see themselves at the very center of that world; their tender spot is
their whole being - any comment is open to misinterpretation, and will unleash
a storm as they attempt to show who's the boss.
The best response is usually
"Well, Pardon Me For Living", and just move away, leaving them to consider
the things that matter in life, like wouldn't it be great to have a time machine
and see who shot Kennedy, or even the vital issues, like 'Will Star Trek be back?"
are 'personal space' flamers. Enter their world, and learn their rules instantly,
or be abused. Move away a little bit, and you are invisible to them. By the nature
of the web, there's always a supply of new people to stumble across their unmarked
2. The Hungry Homeworker
The Internet has distorted the
rules of the universe. Nowhere else has such an ocean of get rich schemes, nowhere
has such a supply of people who would give never their money to a stranger with
silly idea - but a solid belief that everyone else will.
They ignore the
logic that says okay, one or two made millions, but one or two million made nothing
- they just helped the one or two! They endlessly tell you that Amazon started
in a garage. Sure, a garage plus $50,000 from dad. They tell you Google was built
by two college students - yup, at a top university, where any student can walk
into a bank for money to develop and idea. I'm not knocking these people - I'm
their greatest fan. But I know I can't do what they did. The Hungry Homeworker
has no such limitations.
He - and often She - wants two things; information
and suckers. Already being a sucker makes it hard for them to identify others,
so there's a first line of frustration. They want information on how to get rich
quick, and simply cannot understand why others are not getting in line to get
them that first million.
They go on ebay newsgroups and ask people to reveal
where they get their wholesale stuff cheap (duh!); they pop up all over plugging
their new website - affiliate number 447294 - "How can I get more visitors
to my website, I got two last week".
Their dual tragedy is their undying
faith that if they spend a few more bucks making someone else rich, they will
succeed - plus a total lack of a sense of humour. So when questioned on the merits
of their latest scam - sorry, scheme - they are mortally offended, and will excoriate
the world. the only Big Word they know is 'unAmerican', which is thrown generously
at anyone who doubts their ability to succeed. Any attempt to explain why selling
fake viagra to schoolboys is both unethical and doomed to fail, is sure to upset
Sadly, the best way to deal with them is to respond exactly as they
ask: "You won't find cheaper than Wal-Mart" or I sell stuff on ebay
that I buy on ebay". "You want more visitors? - you need to advertise".
"You want to sell viagra to schoolboys? Best ask the local police for a license"