"The Internet is an ideal environment for bully and self-righteous - you can attack personally without being personally in front of victim. The flame is an unavoidable result of one-to-one communication that isn't face-to-face..." Client Help Desk ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A woman posted a question asking for help. When she returned, her post was under a cruel attack by other forum users trying to destroy her reputation, her business and her ambition. Unusual? Not at all.
The truth is, personal attacks happen on Internet forums every day. Thousands of forum users suffer from verbal abuse each time they are trying to ask for advice. Many times you don't care about such episodes. Until it happens to you. And now your name or business is under a threat.
Why do people attack on forums? Many times it is because they have a strong opinion about a subject, and want it to be heard. But it only takes one such post to have others jump in and turn an innocent question into an ugly war that is very difficult to stop.
There is a great diversity of views online - many times I am surprised how different people really are in tastes, opinions and reaction! The one reason for debates turning into flame wars is that many people enter a discussion ONLY when they disagree and want to express their opinion. Many people will find a forum boring if everyone agrees. Controversial forums are much more fun and attractive to inquisitive minds of online users.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Can anyone be attacked on forum? Absolutely! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
When I did a search on Internet looking for articles on subject of "flame wars", I found hundreds of forum messages instead. People are trying to fight flame wars. They complain and ask others to stop. Yet, no solution has been found.
Flaming does not only occur on forums. Discussion groups have their own problem - "trolls", a common term for a newsgroup bully. Most newsgroups moderators recommend ignoring trolls who once in a while spoil discussion with their irellevant and abusive messages.
Sadly, people want "blood". Someone even created a discussion group called alt.flame. It is a forum for every bully that you ever met in your school and if you decide to join, you are certainly not going to be called a "friend". Prepare to be crushed and humiliated. This group has been specifically created for flame wars and does not claim to be intellectual or informative.
Many forum users agree that a lot of good information and solid advice is missed due to misrepresentation. You start paying attention to WAY it is written instead of WHAT it actually says.
The Pew Research Center in their December 1998 survey showed that 45% of online users communicate with other people through online forums, discussion lists and chat groups. 5% of them post every day, and 17% post several times a week.
Online communication has turned our world around by allowing people of all cultures, abilities and means to feel equal and freely express their views. Yet it let out those who thrive on anonymity, abuse and pain. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Are There Solutions? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
While there no fool-proof solutions have been found, there are ways to stop or avoid a flame war.
1.In my interview with Dave Brzegowski who is handling abuse reports for Epix Internet Services, I found out that you may report such an attack to ISP (Internet Service Provider) of attacker which you can identify by their e-mail address. Such incidents are thoroughly investigated before any action takes place.
2. One way to minimize number of such attacks is to ask users to register. Every user will need his own ID and password to be able to post. Forum owners, however, are worried that traffic to their web site will drop because people don't like to go through registration process.
3. If forum owners are too busy to keep an eye on their forums, a good moderator is a solution. Of course, not too many people are willing to volunteer their time moderating forums, but it is a good chance for them to get their names out, and develop a relationship with their potential customers.
4. Do you know if you are a "forum bully?" There is a good chance that you don't realize that your posts might make others feel angry and upset. The fact is, you don't really feel that a message sounds harsh until it is directed toward you. So before you press "Send", read what you wrote. Use a lot of smiley faces (:-). Be careful how you phrase things and capitalize your words. Try to sound helpful rather than criticizing. State facts rather than emotions. 5. Moderators agree that they are too busy to catch every such attack. It is also hard to draw line between an attack and a strongly opinionated message. Who should decide? Moderators. The fairness of moderators, though, is totally subjective. Some forum users expressed an opinion that moderators should be voted in and dismissed publicly. If majority agrees that this moderator is not doing a good job of moderating and being objective while removing attacks on others, he or she should be replaced by someone who is known to be fair. Of course, all of above is completely up to forum owner.