Flamewars in the Blogosphere

I don’t want to be the guy that shines a spotlight on the many varied and obscene warts that exist in the blogosphere. Far be it from me to hold myself up as an example of exemplary behavior. However, there is a disturbing trend in the world of blogs these days and it really needs to stop.

godwinslaw.pngFlamewars are nothing new on the internet. They date back to the early usenet days, where some smart dude figured out a key scientific law known as Godwin’s Law. Godwin’s Law states, in essence, that as a discussion online is prolonged over time, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler increases.

Eventually, usenet gave way to forums and forums gave way to blogs and blogs gave way to social networks.

The scientific law seems to have been preserved as a core guiding principle of internet interaction. Unlike the super smart Jason Calacanis, I don’t believe it’s all that healthy for the blogoshpere.

Well, it might be. It all depends on how the disagreements are aired. Healthy dialogue out of a mutual respect combined with lethal verbal barbs are fine, and in many cases serve to make the world a better place. However, going personal – in life, in politics, on the web – is almost always uncalled for.

Take for instance the recent hidden “cold war” between two influential technology bloggers, both supposedly friends. One does small business with a competitor and now they don’t talk to each other. Apparently. Silly pettiness.

What about the mommy blogger kerfuffle where one supposedly A-list blogger got petty with a longtail blogger over who did what when and where and why? Something to the effect of, “I did this first and you’re a lying thieving bitch”. Mmmmmm…. Female cat fights. Can I get mud with that?

Public relations and bloggers is another catch topic we like to talk about, and have. Bloggers want to own the medium and force PR to cooperate. PR wants to use longevity as a bludgeon tool to get bloggers to fit their paradigm. Stupidity.

And don’t even get me started on politics. Left vs. Right. McCain vs. Obama. He said this, no I didn’t. It all boils down to frivolity.

When is it all going to end? When are we going to realize that people are people and every person should command the respect of others, regardless of sides, positioning or dialogues.

This is a commentary piece for The District of Corruption show to be aired live on July 1, 2008 at 4pm EDT. The archive can be heard here.

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

9 thoughts on “Flamewars in the Blogosphere

  1. Let ‘em get it on. Nothing better to keep things from getting stale. Cat fights are usually best though, when both cats are tied tail to tail and thrown over a clothesline.

  2. “When are we going to realize that people are people and every person should command the respect of others, regardless of sides, positioning or dialogues.”

    In Real Life(tm) you can respect a person independently of their ideas because you’re meeting them, know their friends, etc, backstory really. Online all you have is the idea, so the idea becomes the person, and not all ideas command respect like people do/should. Being harder to make that idea/person connection leads to easily trashing both the idea and the person (it’s still not right but it’s how we get to a flamewar).

  3. Vinnie, do you remember some of the conversations that happened in the old Politics, Religion and World Events forum on Sitepoint? :-p

    Those were the days, eh? I still regret some of the things I said and conversations I was involved with, even back that far.

  4. Eh it’s not worth fretting over. Forgive (those you wronged and those who wronged you) and move on, and if someone tries to use an out-of-context quote from 6 years ago to harm you they’re not gonna get far anyway.

    “It’s just the internet” should be stuck on the top of any website where more than 1 person can post. I think the constant reminder would reduce flamewars and overall seriousness.

  5. No, my post has nothing to do with PRWE. I’m just reminiscing now. Of course, I was called a fascist today and that posted to Digg, but that’s not the point here either.

  6. My 2 cents: I don’t want to work with anyone that personally attacks another person via their bully pulpit. There’s so many positive things that can be accomplished through having that power, that the negative just turns my stomach.

    Not only that, I don’t want to risk doing business with anyone like that. There’s always the possibility that you’ll end up on the wrong side of their tirades. Not this guy.

  7. I think it’s easier to say things on the internet that you’d never EVER say to someone in person (well, maybe after way too many drinks…) — hence a few of the flame wars I’ve witnessed over the years. Sad, really, because I’ve ended up thinking that seemingly normal people are actually raving lunatics, when they’re probably not.

  8. People love the drama Aaron. It’s show business in our niche. It will never end. I used to hate it (years ago), but now I think that it can add some levity and entertainment to people who sometimes take themselves too seriously. Me included.

    Everyone needs a good kick in the ass sometimes. Everyone. My best work comes from when I’m down.

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