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By Richard Lowe
Posted Wednesday, November 24, 2004

You cannot say you have truly experienced the "joy" of the internet until you have been flamed. If you've ever been flamed then you understand how it feels. If not, then don't worry - it will happen and it will not feel good at all. In fact, on my first flame I wanted to cry ... it was pretty bad.

Recently I wrote an article and posted it to a moderated list. I received an incredibly covert letter back which more or less told me I was worthless, my article was worthless and anyone who agreed with what I had to say obviously had the intelligence of a small soap dish.

Oh, how I wanted to send back an email mega-blast with enough vile energy to turn the author of that flame into a small pile of atomic ashes! I hit the reply button and typed in words which would have reduced my target to a pile of quivering protoplasm - then I hit delete. Why bother? Flamers are just waiting for opportunities to send flames. By responding in like manner, we are just throwing gasoline onto their fires.

What is a flame?

A flame is a negative response to an email, newsgroup posting or instant message which is derogatory and attacking.

What are the characteristics of a flame?

A flame is always derogatory. It virtually always personally attacks the author (not the subject of the email) or the group. They are much like arrows shot directly for the heart of the writer or another member of the discussion, and their intention is always to belittle someone.

Sometimes flames can be very subtle and covert. In fact, some flamers spend countless hours creating messages which seem to be positive but actually covertly rip one or more group members down.

How do you tell if a message is a flame?

Flames are virtually always personal attacks on the author or another participant in the discussion. Sometimes they are blatant attacks and sometimes they are very covert, but they are always attacks on group members or the author of a message.

Are flames always responses?

No, an original posting can be a flame. However, they are usually in response to a posting.

Do flames serve any useful purpose?

No. A flame belittles and degrades other human beings. They serve no useful purpose at all.

What should be done when a person flames?

In an email, just ignore the flame. In a newgroup or other moderated list, this is where the moderator steps in and exercises his responsibilities. The moderator might start by calming the group, asking the flamer to stop, and so on.

What should be done if a person continually flames?

In a group it is essential that the person be banned. Otherwise, your group will eventually degrade and fall apart as people tire of being insulted. Never put up with flamers in a group.

In an email, add the person to your spam filter list so you don't get his messages anymore.

How do you tell if a message is a flame?

It contains a personal attack against someone or some people in the group.

Are all heated messages flames?

No. Only those that contain attacks against group members. It is okay and actually important that groups have heated discussions now and then. This is a part of communication. It is also important that people have good manners. There is no need to yell, scream at, degrade or belittle other human beings.

One good example of a group that got very heated was the Yahoo Club WebRingNews. The moderators of the group did not understand the difference between intelligent, adult, heated discussion and flames, so they simply banned everything they didn't agree with or that seemed controversial.

A good moderator encourages debate. A bad moderator allows flames to continue.

What is a flame war?

Flame wars are a series of messages and replies which are more-or-less mud slinging matches. Someone will post a message and get a flame as a response. He will flame back. This will go on for a while and others will join in on the fun. Before long you may have dozens, hundreds or even thousands of vile messages flying back and forth.

What kind of people flame?

Well, we probably have all flamed occasionally in our internet lives. I know in the heat of the moment I've written some emails which I later wishes I could retrieve.

A flamer, however, is person who lives to flame. That's what he or she wants to do. They enjoy degrading other people.

So what kind of people are flamers? People who are not worth responding to because they have no respect for anyone, including themselves.

What should we do about flamers?

Pity them

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