July 25, 2007
In response to Wil Shipley's recent post about the lack of an iPhone SDK, a reader left this comment:
Although I'm a staunch proponent of comments for most blogs, it's comments like this – what Anand Iyer calls nerd rage – that cause me to question my stance. I don't think it's necessarily wise to dignify these kind of comments with a response, but a few comments later, Wil Shipley responded with exactly what I was thinking:
Miss Manners once said the rudest thing to do is point out someone else's rudeness in public. By extension, what do you suppose the biggest a**hole move is?
Bonus points for invoking Miss Manners; her Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior has been a staple of my bookshelf for years. Think what you will about stodgy old Judith Martin, but she has a razor wit and an enduring, keen eye for human behavior. I learned a lot about life by reading her guide in my early twenties; it's a rich comedy of errors in book form that I earnestly recommend to everyone.
I understand the G.I.F.T. is an unfortunate side-effect of anonymity and the faceless interaction mode of the internet. But I think we can do better. As Miss Manners said:
You can deny all you want that there is etiquette, and a lot of people do in everyday life. But if you behave in a way that offends the people you're trying to deal with, they will stop dealing with you. There are plenty of people who say, 'We don't care about etiquette, but we can't stand the way so-and-so behaves, and we don't want him around!' Etiquette doesn't have the great sanctions that the law has. But the main sanction we do have is in not dealing with these people and isolating them because their behavior is unbearable.
I don't object to criticism. Criticism is what comments are for. What I object to is criticism that resorts to least-common-denominator attacks. The use of angry invective negates any criticism you were trying to make. Insulting someone might make you feel temporarily vindicated, or give you a brief, cathartic moment of release, but you aren't convincing anyone of anything. People will read your angry words and see them – and you – for what you are. It's a completely self-defeating exercise. The minute you call someone an a**hole, they're no longer listening to you.
For an example of effective criticism of the strongest kind, I can think of no better piece than Martin Luther King's Letter From Birmingham Jail. I re-read it every year, and each time I'm floored by the passion behind this incredible persuasive essay – and the deep anger and frustration it presents in such rational terms.
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
This legendary essay demonstrates the fine art of disagreement: the ability to respect the people you disagree with, and to earn their respect in turn. The only way to do that is to be civil, reasonable, and rational.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Nice post, jackass. It's definitely important to realize people won't want to deal with you if you don't make the effort to follow some basic rules of etiquette. However, as that a**hole, Benjamin Franz, alluded to, it might be inappropriate to ask "Whatever happened to civility on the internet?" as you'd have a hard time demonstrating there ever was any.
Of course, some places are worse than others. The comments in the two blogs I read most (this and that tweed-wearing, pony-tailed idiot, Bruce Schneier's) seem to be mostly level-headed and actually add valuable information to the posts, while many popular forums are almost completely unreadable.
My biggest beef is people who simply can't admit that they have made a mistake or can't apologize. What is it with our world today when admitting that you were wrong on a COMPLETELY ANONYMOUS internet forum is so darned hard to do?
If you want to earn someone's respect, admit your mistakes and actually apologize when you've been an a'hole.
If you want to win the argument AND feel vindicated, then I always feel that a bit of each side of this discussion is in order.
A civilized, rational response to show the depth of your knowledge and passion about the subject, followed by a shallow harsh dismissal of the other person tends to piss everybody off equally.
This only works if you really *want* to be an a'hole...
I love the coinage: nerd rage. Prettily put.
I'm reminded of something Vance Packard, the pop sociologist, discussed in 'The Status Seekers.' He noted that all social groups have a pecking order, in which the most powerful are given the respect they deserve and the less powerful behave commensurate with their place in the group. It might seem cruel, but it works and order is maintained. Technology tends to interfere with this hierarchy in that you can end up with a man of very small stature insulting a much larger man from inside his automobile. Once these two step out of their cars, things fall back into their natural state. The internet is much like an automobile in that it affords anonymity, which greatly reduces the risk of insulting another human being.
So the next time you feel like flaming someone, remember that you're probably just engaging in nerd rage.
it might be inappropriate to ask "Whatever happened to civility on the internet?" as you'd have a hard time demonstrating there ever was any.
I think there are pockets of civility, as runbei pointed out with his running forum examples.
What happened to civility? Good question for Will. In the original post, Will called other people's work "dogshit." He established the tone of the discussion, and the commenter followed suit. That doesn't make it right, but Will's holier-than-thou reaction is laughable.
If you want to be rude, that's your right, but don't be surprised when others respond in-kind.
As my Gran always told me, resorting to expletives is the craft of those whose limited intelligence means they are unable to find appropriate and eloquent insults to hurl.
I'm with you - etiquette all the way.
While I don't like to accept it, the rules are different here. It's just a different world to me. You're throwing people that don't typically have the guts to stand up for themselves in the real world, into in a place of anonymity. It's their only outlet.
It's a different world that I avoid at all costs. I stopped reading digg, cause I couldn't deal with the idiotic, brainless, and hypocritical comments. I hardly participate in forums anymore for the same reason. I've found that people don't typically respond to me positively in this world, for reasons I don't understand.
I guess I'll stay out there.
It looks like we have forgotten the root of this discussion: Apple is hiding iPhone SDK. And, if that was not rude enough, they SOLDERED the battery onto iPhone's "motherboard" without even suggesting the wattage of the soldering iron I should use once the battery gives up its ghost. 1W? 2W? 0.5W?
Now, that's what I call rude.
In the original post, Will called other people's work "dogshit." He established the tone of the discussion
That's fair, but don't you think it's ultimately more effective to respond reasonably, rather than assuming the tone of the writer you are responding to?
Jeff, this is the best blog entry I have read, by anyone, ever. I have always appreciated the tone of respect you use with your readers; I appreciate it all the more now.
This is something we see everywhere on the internet.
Out of curiosity, how do you come up with the topics that you write about?
And how the heck do you remember the Penny-Arcade comic and date of the GIFT.
I am impressed, as always.
Jeff, you're totally full of sh*t. You always come across as a little bit of an a**hole. Full of yourself, overly critical and a bit mean. Dismissing and dissing, out of pure ignorance and spite, the work of the people who write such insightful comments.
I kid. I kid.
This is spot on! I think the Terms of Service of every site should link to this post about how to be a member of a community. ;)
The thing is, community and civility require some amount of empathy. I've dealt with agitated commenters before and try my best to be civil and empathetic as in this situation I wrote about: http://haacked.com/archive/2007/03/26/building-a-strong-open-source-community-requires-empathy.aspx
Only when I feel they are merely agitators or trolling, do I simply not respond anymore.
I don't like piling on (even on a good pile), but this was a really good post. I really enjoy your blog and its one of the few that I make the time to read on a regular (daily) basis. Thanks.
Conveniently, the majority of such folks reside at Digg.. hence the aptly coined moniker - DIGGTARD!
seriously, just spend 10 minutes reading comments under any thread and see if the incoherent mishmash of profanity peppered with overused LOLcat comments and utterances of "FTW" cause you to actually lose IQ.
I don't think there's any point trying to be reasonable with someone who's being unreasonable, in the same way that I don't think you should be unreasonable with someone who puts forward a reasonable argument. Wil started his post by making some valid points, and then half way through it he seemed to get side-tracked and went off on a bit of a tirade.
I suspect that Wil enjoys doing that as it sparks emotions in readers and prompts them to post rude comments. That seems to justify his tirade and give him more reason to be rude, as can be seen in his response to the "a**hole" commenter in which he uses more profanities.
Count how many times the word "f*ck" was said on that page and you'll see that Wil is the one at fault here.
Bloggers often come off as somebody carrying a set of stone tablets down a mountain too though. This can be galling when they're spouting something that's opinion at best, and presenting it as fact. The loyal bobble-heads chiming in with agreement must be like salt in the wound for those with strong opposing opinions.
None of that excuses rudeness, which also serves to undermine the dissenter's opinion.
But this is one way that blogging is often very like journalism as typically practiced today. Objectivity seems to be a very scarce commodity.
This lack of civility is one of two factors I predicted will lead to a a href="http://www.martialdevelopment.com/blog/wushu-and-the-second-cultural-revolution/"second Cultural Revolution/a.
As always, an interesting topic, Jeff.
I guess I just disregard posts when they degrade into personal insults and name calling. I used to frequent some forums where one could put folks on an 'ignore' list. That was great because the trolls and jerks could be essentially removed from my forum threads. It wasn't perfect (particularly when people quotted them), but it was better than nothing. I guess blog comments aren't really the same sort of beast, so I just actively skip over the stuff that is clearly a pointless ad hominem attack.
The golden rule is always a good policy in my book.
I agree generally with the points you made on your blog post about blog comments. As much as I enjoy the topics you write about here, I think the lack of comments would make them a little less interesting.
Have a good one.
I wise man once told me: Arguing online is like running in the Special Olympics, even if you win, you're still a retard.
I totally agree, constructive criticism is a great thing, privatly talking to someone about their rudeness is also a very good thing. Attacks in public achieve nothing and bring down the the tone of an otherwise healthy debate.
Respect between people who disagree is a very admirable thing and something that should be encouraged in all debates.
That G.I.F.T. theory is brilliant! As an ex-avid gamer I came across people like that ALL the time. Namely 'hackers' and blatant cheats that would run around maps holding the server hostage. Even worse, entire known teams that were known for it. What got my goat however were the people that kept associating with these people and never drove them into isolation - even if that was by way of lack of association.
To draw the correlation here - whether it be a comment in a blog, forum, or online game, the best course of action is to completely ignore it. Do not reply or you'll be playing into their imaginary game.
I'd go so far as to delete comments that were ineffective/inappropriate. I don't advocate this though - this can lead to a very angry sensored audience.
Couldn't agree more, Jeff. Unfortunately I've noticed that the more nasty words have starting bubbling from the comments and into the actual blog posts as well. The many negative bloggers out there keep going on with their negativity because of a few readers that praise them for their "straight talk."
What they don't seem to realize is that even though they may be pleasing 10% of their possible readers with their "straight talk" they're losing the other 90% of their readers and credibility.
While I agree with the sentiment you set forth in your post, I think that it's relevant to point out that Wil certainly has participated in this very type of behavior himself. Does that make the comment towards him any less wrong? No. However, I think that spreading forth such comments is only going to feed those against you.
Specifically, his comment in the very post you link to that states:
"Microsoft has tried to foist off on us over the years (Direct-stuff, Active-thing, C-sharp, .Net, Live-whatever) -- because they don't fucking use their own stuff."
...this type of misinformed digression is exactly the type of stuff that Miss Manners would have a fit over (if Miss Manners was capable of having a fit). Putting a comment like that out there is surely going to come back to you, and it did.
Great suggestion on the Letter From Birmingham Jail, I haven't read this letter in quite some time, and it is very applicable to your topic.
I'm showing my age. Because civility has never been the hallmark of network communications. Blogs are the inheritors of a long tradition that started on email lists, migrated to the Usenet and from thence to web based forums.
From a news.misc post dated Feb 17, 1989
One basic notion underlying Usenet is that it is a cooperative.
Having been on USENET for going on ten years, I disagree with this. The basic notion underlying USENET is the flame. Whatever cooperation that does go on with USENET is there simply to make it easier for people to rip each other to pieces....
Chuq Von Rospach
I have to agree with Josh on this one.
Seems to me that if you go berserk and word vomit a bunch of "misinformed digression(s)" on your post, you're asking someone to call you exactly what you were acting like.
What bothers me the most are the folks on forums who calmly ask questions and are met with responses of "fucking google it jackass" and the like.
following up on Josh's comment, Wil's post then followed on with this little nugget of righteousness:
Although I agree with the basic premise of your post, Jeff, I have to say that content of Wil's original posting left him completely open to the label of "a-hole".
And the pussifying of the Internet continues.
Reasonable men can (when the need arises) knife you in the back. If you dish it out as Will does then you should be able to take it. On the other hand if your argument reduces to, "I don't like you 'cause you're a ..." then why bother. To a certain extent the web is an echo chamber so feigned outrage (on either side of a debate) is just plain ridiculous. Get passionate and upset about the children that die from positive actions that people take every day on this planet where murder is legitimate policy (on every side.) But fevered words about an API (or lack of) should just make us all ashamed.
I enjoyed your post and agree completely. That is a wonderful letter along with his other writings. I think that this is the result of growing up with computers and extensive use of chat rooms and pseudonyms. The pseudonyms allow and encourage flaming the other person rather than having a discussion. At this time most people are unable to carry on a conversation no matter if it's on a computer or in person. Part of having a conversation and communicating with human beings is being able to disagree but still listen in an intelligent manner and be able to see the other person’s point of view. Of course, not all chat rooms and discussion boards are bad, there are quite a few like this one that have a lot of good information on them.
After reading your blogs for the past several months, I feel this particular entry is my favorite. I could not agree with you more. I feel the best way to resolve a conflict or to express criticism is to approach it rationally and level-headed. Too many people on the internet seem to get e-muscles and they are suddenly tough behind a monitor and keyboard.
I think Art's "pussifying" comment hits the nail on the head. Flames are how some young men try to demonstrate their manhood in the online world. It's 99% guys doing the flaming, as we all know.
The first person to swear usually appears to be losing the debate, unless it's some truly creative and appropriate profanity. (Which is quite rare.) But some guys don't seem to know that.
In his book, Education for Life, J. Donald Walters defines maturity as the ability to relate to realities outside of one's own. Walters points out that contractive attitudes are their own reward - it is painful when our awareness shrinks in ever-smaller circles.
I think the salvation of the Internet rests with communities whose members are so generally expansive that immature people feel uncomfortable there. When they word-vomit, they are shamed into leaving or forcibly removed.
I'm thinking of rec.running, which was too diverse, and too open, to hold against the handful of sociopaths and psychopaths who flooded it with their slime. rec.running is now the Combat Zone of running. Mature people have emigrated to the moderated forums at Runner's World and Cool Running. Those communities work. Possibly because they include open forums (psych wards) for the immature.
I have to say that content of Wil's original posting left him completely open to the label of "a-hole".
Certainly Wil deserves his share of criticism. Criticism is a good and welcome thing, as I said in the post. That's not what I object to. I object to *ineffective* criticism, which is a waste of *everyone's* time-- the writer, the reader, and the audience. And when you degenerate into calling someone an a-hole, that is, by definition, ineffective criticism. As Wil said in his reply:
You kind of kill your own point by insulting me while telling me it's not cool to ever insult anyone. It's like holding a gun to someone's head and yelling, "GUN CONTROL! NOW!"
the best way to win an argument
Is it really necessary to "win" an argument? It might be more constructive not to think of disagreements in terms of winners and losers. It is possible, even desirable, to have equitable disagreement.
I don't think that civility ever existed in computer communications. Back in the 80's, almost every BBS I visited (yeah I am that old) was rife with nastiness and flaming. The Internet didn't invent the lack of civility, but computer-based communication certainly helped it evolve. I think the relative anonymity of forums and such are more to blame than anything else....
I still think of anyone who uses all caps as "Some idiot with an Apple ][". (For those of you too young to remember or too old to have any memory left, Apple's didn't have upper and lower case so they always seemed to be yelling on the BBS's).
Jeeze man, you think that's bad? Check out the comments at any large public site, e.g. youtube.
Telling someone to 'google it' or the equivalent (RTFM, STFW, Use the Source, Luke, and so on) is born out of wanting to keep the communications channel as full of useful discussion as possible, as opposed to rehashing the same half-dozen questions asked by an endless stream of people who won't stick around to become part of the ongoing discussion (and may not, in fact, stick around long enough to read the answer). It is an intensely pragmatic reaction to the fact there will always be more experts than petitioners, and that people don't use documentation unless they absolutely must.
In short, if you don't like places where 'google it' is considered an acceptable response, stay out of them. The regulars will thank you.
The thing is these people have a mental illness.
As a side comment, and humble suggestion of article, how much of the industry is effected by The Psychological as opposed True Reason ?
Whilst Trolls or Nerd Rage are annoying destructive examples, how about some thought about the less obvious thinking that causes problems in software development ?
The actual source of the Nerd Rage was an "attack" upon a programming language. This idea of wanting to change from Old Thinking to New Thinking often meets this pointless emotional resistance.
As somebody who has dabbled in language design, I would like to point out that languages are often not the real problem. For instance some body has been pressuring me to move from using Java to Python. Now I have nothing against Python, in fact i rather like Python. I keep trying to explain that in my case it is not the language, but the libraries.
Coherent arguments in internet forums will continue to be extremely rare. The ancient Greeks had the art (yes, they viewed it as an art) of debate down to an... well.. art.
Rhetoric and debate were considered worthy subjects to study and become proficient in. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case, and thus you have people with no clue thinking that swearing is the way to "win" an argument.
It's not going to go away. And to those who think using reasoned logic and debating skills instead of knee-jerk swearing is "pussifying" the internet, I just shake my head at how low the lowest common denominator actually has become.
The internet reflects, and amplifies, the popular culture. It is not the cause, per se. Civility, particularly in public debates has gone the way of the dodo, mostly due to talk radio and extremist "political" commentators (O'Reilly, Coulter, et. al) who, like other instances of the "shock jock" class, discovered that wild statements equal ratings which equal advertising dollars.
Unfortunately, nonsense, spurious reasoning and rudeness, repeated often enough in ANY media have an effect on everyone. Absurdly venomous comments on something as ultimately trivial as language preference are just another symptom of this.
Since anonymity is widely seen as bad for civility, should blogging platforms offer the option of requiring commenters to use real names (which could be verified through credit cards, as in the amazon.com Real Name system)?
"That's fair, but don't you think it's ultimately more effective to respond reasonably, rather than assuming the tone of the writer you are responding to?"
I was addressing the topic of *this* post: "Whatever happened to civility...." But yeah, once people start name-calling, the argument is pretty much over (as you said in your post about ad hominem attacks).
"particularly in public debates has gone the way of the dodo, mostly due to talk radio and extremist "political" commentators (O'Reilly, Coulter, et. al)"
Don't forget to look to your left -- MoveOn, Daily Kos, "et al". Those guys made their bones on name calling ("BushHitler", "Nazis", etc.). Not much civil discourse to be found there, either.
And on what basis do you think internet merely "reflect" popular culture, whereas other media (TV and radio) actually influence it? More likely, the directional nature of TV and radio make them market participants, not market makers. They have a product to sell, and they're successful because there's a market for it. On the internet, the discourse is largely divorced from market forces.
Point taken. The left is no better than the right, and I stand corrected. Reflection implies unidirectionality. Causality is certainly bidirectional between media and its audience, with all the feedback phenomena which that implies.
Since no one seems to have connected the dots: The rise of the virulent right wing, exemplified by Cheney's "Go F yourself" to Leahy on the floor of the Senate, just might, might I insist, have something to do with the decline of civil discourse in society. That, and hearing George Will, liar of the first water, declaim similarly. Sometimes, the only response is to Nuke 'em Back to the Stone Age. 2 points for knowing who first said it.
And you define "society" as the US then ? And the "internet" as something only available in the US ?
Widen your views a bit.
I didn't assert that the disease was localized and hadn't metastasized to the Greater Globe.
And just to clear up the confusion. The dot to be connected was "The rise of the virulent right wing". This is not confined to the US, certainly. The examples were Cheney and Will. Sarkozy, for the Euro-centric, might do.
I think the post itself and many of the subsequent comments illustrate why social networking sites are becoming more popular, particularly in business circles.
Being an asshole has consequences when you remove anonymity. In the context of, say, LinkedIn, Facebook, Ryze, etc., being an a**hole will eventually revoke your right to participate in the group. And assuming that most people want to participate in the group, that's an effective social check on behavior.
Regarding blogs, I'm all for open dialog on blogs, and I'm certainly welcome to people disagreeing with me. But you know, my blog is like my house. And if you come into my house and start calling me a jackass, I'm going to throw you out. Come to my blog and do the same, and your comment will be deleted. That's not censorship -- that's simply expecting a modicum of respect while you're on my property. The fact that it's virtual real estate doesn't change that.
Sure, least-common-denominator attacks where a person simply calls you names is one thing, but the use of vulgarity is hardly reason to dismiss a criticism altogether. Sure, the rest of they said might have been more convincing to some people without the name-calling, but so what? If somebody is an a**hole, then calling them one is justified. I don't think this was the case in your example, but I'm referring to your generalized point here.
And, by the way, I like your articles but you do come off as arrogant.
seems condercending to me.
I'd prefer to be concise, to the point, and try not to "accuse" anyone in the process.
I find however, the best way to win an argument, is to use their own arguments against them; pointing out their flaws etc... (think the reasoning behind the use of the flying spagettie monster to poke fun at rediculous beliefs)
or even better get them in a classic rock and a hardplace situation... they are a "particularly abrasive person" if they do, and a "particularly abrasive person" if they don't.
"The rise of the virulent right wing, exemplified by Cheney's "Go F yourself" to Leahy on the floor of the Senate, just might, might I insist, have something to do with the decline of civil discourse in society"
On the other hand, maybe not.
No, I don't like being insulted. No, I don't think calling a large group of people's work "dogshit" and calling a person an "asshole" on his blog are at all equivalent.
If you feel that way, seriously, then I guess you must be a saint who has never cursed his car, his cell phone, ATT's customer service -- I mean, SOMEBODY created all those things? Aren't you afwaid of hurting their wittle feewings?
If you want to call Cocoa crap, go ahead (and look stupid). But if you call me an asshole, you're just being a jerk. Find me one place on my blog where I've done an ad-hominem attack.
May I kindly suggest you use proper dashes rather than multiple hyphens (--)? :-)
From my experience with performing background checks, I'd say that most, if not all, of a person's Internet activities can be tied together given enough searching, access to a few databases, and a few pieces of information to start with.
Many blogging systems currently ask for a combination of a name, website, or e-mail. One could adopt David's idea and use a Facebook profile URL or something that is clearly linked to a real person. However, I would argue that one's activities could be automatically linked by software.
Since all activities must come from a person, then it doesn't really matter if we know the person's real name or not. The name is just another bit of information that leads to everything else. It's a lot like a graph. You can start from 1 node and get somewhere but you can also start from another node and get to your destination just as quickly.
Jeff, reading this article I instantly remembered an old article written by you:
I respect your opinion on Joel, but I would highly disagree with what you said about the Wasabi and how you personally attacked Joel with your comments and very little base on what really is Wasabi. For what Joel say he wants from Fogbugz, Wasabi is perfectly reasonable. Now, why he wants those things so bad, things that only a customized language can offer is what you should focus on.
Many computer languages were born the same way Wasabi. How could you know that maybe in some years we won#8217;t be using it?
#8220;This legendary essay demonstrates the fine art of disagreement: the ability to respect the people you disagree with, and to earn their respect in turn. The only way to do that is to be civil, reasonable, and rational.#8221;
By putting his photo with a #8220;WTF#8221; in big red letters is a good example on how to be civil? The impression that I got after reading that article was that you lost all the respect that you once had for Joel Spolsky.
The title of this article made me laugh when I first read it, but I avoided reading the article for a while, expecting the worst, and I was not disappointed. This article reads so much like an aging person's recollection of the "good old days", which were never as good as they remember.
In this case, I was there for the "good old days", and they were anything but civil. Go back and read the usenet archives from 1986. I don't think there had been even 20 groups created, before the term "flame" got created. (Yes, I was there when net-news had TWO news groups.)
I even got flamed the following spring, when reporting news from the April issue of Byte Magazine that Apple Computer was secretly running MacOS software on Intel processors. Ah, vindication at last.
I once read some "law" of forum usage (I'm completely forget what it is and Google fails me) that went something like: The quality of discussion is in proportion to the time it takes until someone is refered to as a "nazi" or "Hitler". I've read the responses to this blog for some time and I have to say that according to this law the information content of this site must be rather high.
@Andrew: You're looking for Godwin's Law, I think: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." It's related to the logical fallacy reductio ad Hitlerum, or argumentum ad Nazium. Wikipedia has some pretty good articles on these.
By the way, Jeff: I'm a long time reader, first time commenter, and I wanted to give you kudos on the Penny Arcade reference.
Your pomposity knows no bounds.
The impression that I got after reading that article was that you lost all the respect that you once had for Joel Spolsky.
The point of the Joel article was the absurdity of the "do as I say, not as I do" factor on his blog. It also helps to have a sense of humor. :)
"The first person to swear usually appears to be losing the debate, unless it's some truly creative and appropriate profanity."
See, I don't agree with that at all. Language is fluid, and using profanity or an insult can mean different things. Certainly, I think we could agree the word "fuck" means completely different things to someone in Brooklyn versus someone in Salt Lake.
The world could use more of people calling a spade a spade. What's the one group on the planet that uses less language to communicate to try not to offend anyone at all, who usually employ double-speak and lies to get what they want? That's right, politicians. I think we'd all be a lot better off if some senator would go up to the Capitol floor and say, "You know, I think that George W. Bush is a fucking moron. I hope he dies." It would be the truth.
A lie should not be the price for civility. I really don't see the problem with the first quote in the entry. If that's how the guy felt, I'm perfectly fine with him displaying his disgust. The whole, "if you don't have anything nice to say" sure didn't advance society any.
Whenever I'm tempted to respond to a rude poster in a calm, rational way I remind myself that you can't reason with people on the Internet so don't bother. That's not why they are there. They are there to argue and vent their anger; logic doesn't enter into it.
The most reasoned, rational response will just be meet with more vitriol as the person doesn't care about engaging in honest conversation, they just want you to be as angry as they are.
So, you win if you ignore them and they win if they get you to respond.
There has never been civility on the internet. The first day I connected I ended up in a checkers room and was soon called names for not winning my first ever online game. Kids with no moral compass take every opportunity to make themselves feel better than everyone else by posting on forums and blogs things that could have been better left unsaid.
When I read this post, the first thing that came to mind was a quote from "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back":
Jay: What the f**k is the Internet?
Holden: The Internet is a communication tool used the world over where people can come together to bitch about movies and share pornography with one another.
Stephen: Thanks for filling in what my brain forgot on Godwin Law.
Wow, thank you for taking the time to address this issue. I actually know some technically gifted people that would love to share their insights but have so far avoided blogging for exactly these reasons. They just don't want to end up wasting their time defending everything they say or publish.
Discussion and critical replies are part and parcel of the medium and the industry. But low level attacks disguised as comments can suck the life out of a blogger.
My Grandfather always used to say that "Swearing is the last refuge of the incompetent." I am sure he was quoting someone but I don't know whom.
I might be with Art on this one... Swears and the like have a negative connotation but online, in a world of text, they can convey emotion much more clearly and effectively (frustration being the most common use for myself).
I'm not saying that swearing is neccessary to convey strong emotions, but it can be sufficient without detracting from the overall argument.
Oh, a latecomer to this page.
I enjoy occasional abusive comments. They amuse me, either through outright daftness or in a rather arrogant (hey, I have my flaws), pitying way of chuckling at the poster's inability to form a cogent argument. Mostly I just imagine their fuming rage as they beat their fists on the keyboard, and that brightens my day no end - it's kind of Schadenfreude, which any sane person will agree is the most satisfying source of amusement in the world.
But my favourite approach is that of Jon R: Form a well-reasoned, circumspective and challenging response, and throw in some coarse vernacular to show that it can be used constructively. It's the same technique as lies behind many great works: First understand the rules, then break them in a constructive manner.
I stopped listening to Jon R. about one-third of the way through his post. That so-called "strong" language is exactly the opposite. It's so overused that it's literally meaningless, and a post like his has a poor noise-to-signal ratio. Remember the days of analog radio and TV when a poor signal would cause you to tune out an otherwise good program? Like that.
Well, there's two halves. Swearing can be the last refuge of the incompetent. The flipside of that coin is that it can also be the last refuge of people who are sick of your fucking bullshit.
It's cute. Thought it up all by myself. But it's fairly relevant in the realm of opinions where, more often than not, there really is a lot of bullshit to wade through. And my view is that a good deal of it comes from the very people who espouse this "civility on the internet" tripe.
You know what? If you avoid offering your comments because you're afraid of having to defend it against every little thing, that's pretty much down to your own self-centered stupidity, and it really almost borders on OCD. I could go on with a lengthy reply with bullet points on the fallacies of that mentality, or i could save myself a lot of time by stating "that is the dumbest fucking thing i've ever heard". In fact, the latter is preferable to me, since all the reason in the world isn't going to help with someone who's clearly looking for any half-assed excuse to puss out of sharing his opinion. Frankly, for people who think like that, i'd rather they DID keep their opinions to themselves for the simple fact that i don't really have the time or interest to deal with the emo coddling their poor widdwe sensitive souls apparently require. If they want to write things they don't have to justify, there are any number of journalism programs at colleges around the world.
Whenever i see this issue come up, it's invariably based on the childish pretense that your ego actually matters, and it's always broached with the attitude that mindless arrogance can't be on the other side of the fence as well. It's clear even in the example you've given:
"The minute you call someone an a**hole, they're no longer listening to you."
To which i say the minute you stop listening to criticism because you don't like the wrapping, you have changed the issue from being about criticism to being about your petty ego and, as such, may go fuck yourself. If you find a noun that doesn't suit you to be sufficient cause to ignore everything else, then everyone can see you for what you are -- someone looking for a loophole to not register criticism. Or, in short form, an asshole. Would people have a problem with glowing accolades? Usually not. So what would be the real reason for disliking harsh criticism? It's not because mild reactions in either direction are preferred, now is it?
It's a nice issue, but there's some middle ground to be had. Just as you don't always deserve to be called a fuckhead, you don't always deserve to not be called a fuckhead.
What I find frustrating is that only binary or opposite positions seem to be allowed--one extreme or the other. Bloody tedious. Most things are in between, thanks.
Equally frustrating is how people seem unwilling to let you adjust or change your position once you learn new information. As if adapting and learning is a sign of hypocrisy instead of development and growth. Sheesh. The last think I want is a world of people too scared to change and grow because they might learn that they were wrong at one point in their life.