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Flaming (Internet)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(Redirected from Flaming)

Flaming is the act of sending or posting messages that are deliberately hostile and insulting, usually in the social context of a discussion board on the Internet. Such messages are called flames, and are sometimes posted in response to flamebait. Flaming is said by some to be one of a class of economic problems known as The Tragedy of the Commons, when a group holds a resource (in this case, communal attention), but each of the individual members has an incentive to overuse it. Flamers usually call their flames justified attacks.

Although the trading of insults is as old as human speech, flaming on the Internet, like many other online 'actions,' started in the Usenet hierarchies (although it was known to occur in the WWIVnet and FidoNet computer networks as well). A flame may have elements of a normal message, but is distinguished by its intent. A flame is typically not intended to be constructive, to further clarify a discussion, or to persuade other people. The motive for flaming is often not dialectic, but rather social or psychological. Sometimes, flamers are attempting to assert their authority, or establish a position of superiority. Other times, the flamer is simply a closed-minded or biased individual whose conviction that theirs is the only valid opinion leads them to personally attack any "dissenters." 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.

The word flaming is also sometimes used for long, intensive and heated discussions, even though insults do not occur.

It is noted that Internet users are more likely to flame online than insult others in the real world, as the latter can lead to embarrassment and physical altercations, which online "anonymity" can avoid. However, others urge against flaming, citing that people on the other side "have feelings too."

Flame Wars

Wikinews has news related to:
Study says people don't understand the emotional tone of emails, but think they do

A flame war is a series of flaming messages in electronic discussion groups such as usenet, mailing lists or internet forums. There are a number of characteristics of electronic communication which have been cited as being conducive to flame wars. Electronic communications do not easily transmit facial expressions or voice intonations which may serve to moderate the tone of a message. (However, some users may add on smileys (e.g. ;) ) to lessen the sting of a negative post, or to clarify the meaning behind a post.) Also, there is typically a lag time between the time a message is transmitted and the time a reply is read. These two characteristics can cause a "positive feedback loop" in which the emotional intensity of an electronic exchange increases to extremely high levels. Many times, the intent of a message is misunderstood, causing an unintentional flame war. These tend to escalate and worsen very quickly, sometimes causing the topic in which the reply is submitted to be closed, or "locked."

Alternatively, flame wars may be instigated deliberately by Internet trolls.

Jay W. Forrester described a phenomenon that often happens in flamewars whereby participants talk past each other. Each participant employs a different mental model (i.e. due to fundamental differences in their assumptions about what a particular word or concept means, they are actually discussing two different things).

Other Methods of Flaming

Pie Fights

A Pie Fight is a type of discourse specific to bulletin boards, blogs and other types of Internet forums. Pie Fights are characterized by heated, emotional exchanges. Pie Fights are typically of short duration, but can have a devastating effect on an online community. Pie Fights can be started by Internet trolls who use baiting techniques to enrage Internet forum users so much that they post inappropriate and/or offensive messages. Unfortunately, this often results in disruption of the forum more than anything else.

The term "Pie Fight" is derived from a June, 2005 event on Daily Kos, a liberal and progressive issues web site, in which site administrators accepted an advertisement that showed two scantily-clad women throwing pies and smearing each other with whipped cream and pie filling. This advertisement was for the TBS reality series The Real Gilligan's Island.[1]

Despite the fact that the advertisement was only marginally related to the regular subject matter discussed on Daily Kos, it dominated the user diary entries and blog comments for several days. The animosity generated by the acceptance of this advertisement caused some established members of the Daily Kos community to cease participation in the forum that it provides.

Holy Wars

A Flame War is usually a particular spate of flaming, a Holy War is a drawn-out disagreement that may last years or even span careers. For instance, younger Linux programmers who today have strong opinions on vi and emacs may not even have been born in 1976 when these editors were released.

Use of the term "Holy War" implies that the root of the disagreement is a clash of values, and intractable of resolution except by agreeing to disagree.

Flame Reviews

Flame Reviews are often used to insult the creator of a product (eg. a game, a story, or a video), but are particularly common on, but not restricted to, sites with poor review monitoring techniques. Since they are difficult to respond to, they rarely burst into prolonged online arguments, although they are both annoying and hurtful; two specific qualities are required for a Flame.

Flame Reviews are often confused with 'Non-Constructive Criticism'. While Non-Constructive Criticism is often painfully blunt and rude, it never attacks the creator themselves, only the product. The review may or may not be anonymous, because the reviewer rarely believes that they have actually said anything hurtful and so are not afraid of retribution. Non-Constructive Criticism may insult the product, but it never intentionally insults the creator.

Flame Reviews on the other hand, involve deeply personal attacks, often regarding the creator's sexuality, intelligence, choice of fandom, family or friends, with random cursing thrown in. They are, whenever possible, written anonymously and are intentionally insulting. If there is any reference to the product, it will be used to insult the creator (eg: "How stupid are you to have written this awful trash?"). A popular stereotype of a Flame Review is that it is badly spelt and typed in All Caps, but this is not compulsory.

Flame Reviews and Non-Constructive Criticism are only confused when the creator has not actually ever received a genuine Flame. They are in fact very different and can be told apart on sight.

Flame Reviewers are closely associated with Internet Trolls.

Flaming as an art form

During the early days of internet use, flaming could be considered an inside joke, a group game or even a participatory artistic activity. This can still be the case on forums and message boards which have a small number of regular users who know each other well. In this situation, flames are exchanged without ill-feeling and especially clever and humorous insults may be archived for the future enjoyment of users. In the 1980s when Bulletin Board Systems were becoming common, small and tight-knit online communities would often treat flaming as an acid test for potential new members. If they weathered the attack, or better yet, joined in and returned as good as they got, they were worth keeping.

Old-timers will sometimes lament that the art of flaming has been lost.

Extended use of the term "flame war"

Sometimes, serious academic or technical disagreements online are described casually as "flame wars" even when the major participants are making useful and informative points and, largely, not flaming. This may have to do with the degree to which observers identify emotionally with the sides of the debate, or see esteemed leaders or role-models representing their own points of view powerfully.

For example, the Usenet discussion between Andrew S. Tanenbaum and Linus Torvalds on microkernel versus monolithic kernel operating system design (Tanenbaum-Torvalds debate) has been described as a famous "flame war". Despite being designated a "flame war", the debate is quite informative: it has been studied by serious computer scientists and researchers, and continues to remain recommended and even required reading in courses on OS design and implementation.[citation needed]

Partly, terming such a discussion a "flame war" seems to be due to faulty or distorted memory of the discussion itself: it is easier to remember the (relatively few) insulting asides made -- such as Tanenbaum's comment that he would give Torvalds a poor grade for Linux's design -- than it is to remember the technical points, a phenomenon called illusory correlation. To continue the above example, Torvalds and Tanenbaum have both made it clear that they consider their famous discussion to have been mischaracterized.

Technical "advocacy" discussions, concerning the merits or flaws of a technology -- or especially of rival technologies -- can often seem "flamy" simply from the emotional intensity of hobbyists or professionals involved. Some have called the debates about the relative merits of Intel Pentium versus PowerPC, or Pentium 4 versus Athlon XP, or Microsoft Windows versus Mac OS X, or Microsoft Windows versus Linux, or Apple Computer's decision to go with NeXT over BeOS as "flame wars", even though the discussions are often highly technical and non-inflammatory.

Also, the debates on certain topics in theoretical physics, such as loop quantum gravity versus string theory between Lubos Motl and John Baez and Steve Carlip has been described by string theorist and Harvard professor of physics Lubos Motl as a "flame war" -- despite the fact that they were a source of fruitful articles on quasinormal modes of black hole physics.

The term "flame war" may also be applied to a heated debate in anticipation of the debate becoming an actual flame war.

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 hypotheses 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.
  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.
  4. It is reasonable to consider that some forms of flaming can be attributed to deeper social or psychological weaknesses, probably from lack of exposure to a broader spectrum of disciplines that result in self-control issues.

Wired News: The Secret Cause of Flame Wars,70179-0.html?tw=rss.index

A reference on CSAV: "Visualizing Argumentation", by Paul A. Kirschner et al (ed), Springer-Verlag, ISBN 1-85233-664-1.

See also

  • Fisking
  • Godwin's Law

External links

  • A compilation of several guides to flaming
  • Flame Champs The Ultimate Flame Forum on the Net! [2]
  • Netizen's Guide to Flame Warriors
  • Original pie fight posting on Daily Kos
  • MediaDailyNews article on the pie fight phenomenon
  • dKosopedia entry on pie fight
  • Flamewar! a free videogame that mocks flaming behavior
  • Flame, Flame on!, Flame bait, Flamage, and Flamer on Ursine's Jargon Wiki.
  • Email Etiquette Guide
  • Email Etiquette
  • Etiquette: Why is it important?
  • Flame Them Forums
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