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The Secret Cause of Flame Wars

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the i-thought-it-was-because-you-suck-at-life dept.

Science 389

Mz6 writes "According to recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, I've only a 50-50 chance of ascertaining the tone of any e-mail message. The study also shows that people think they've correctly interpreted the tone of e-mails they receive 90 percent of the time. "That's how flame wars get started," says psychologist Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago, who conducted the research with Justin Kruger of New York University. "People in our study were convinced they've accurately understood the tone of an e-mail message when in fact their odds are no better than chance," says Epley. The researchers took 30 pairs of undergraduate students and gave each one a list of 20 statements about topics like campus food or the weather. Assuming either a serious or sarcastic tone, one member of each pair e-mailed the statements to his or her partner. The partners then guessed the intended tone and indicated how confident they were in their answers. Those who sent the messages predicted that nearly 80 percent of the time their partners would correctly interpret the tone. In fact the recipients got it right just over 50 percent of the time."

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Not news to us, unfortunately... (2, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705489)


Sadly, Slashdot readers have known this for years.

Kids, this is why it's so important to properly use your <sarcasm> tags and your emoticons!

Re:Not news to us, unfortunately... (0, Flamebait)

carlvlad (942493) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705507)

STFU! you think you're so smart? I could've have gotten the 1st post if i was less normal like you . . . . . . . . . . ..

Re:Not news to us, unfortunately... (1)

Uber Banker (655221) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705673)

STFU! you think you're so smart? I could've have gotten the 1st post if i was less normal like you...

I could've have gotten the 1st post if i was, less normal, like you...

I could've have gotten the 1st post if i was less, normal like you...

Not news to us, unfortunately...Oops! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705518)

"Kids, this is why it's so important to properly use your tags and your emoticons!"

And people still have misunderstandings.

Re:Not news to us, unfortunately...Oops! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705541)

And people still have misunderstandings.

What's that supposed to mean? Hmm?

Re:Not news to us, unfortunately...Oops! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705682)

And people still have misunderstandings.

Its like the picture with two faces or one vase, there are two equally valid ways to see the picture, but once you see once, its not at all obvious there a second interpretation.

Then again, I also know a guy who send emails along the lines. "This is why I'm right and you're not just wrong but stupid too. Now why are you being so childish as to continue this arguement? Lets end it now because I'm the adult and I want to have the last word and your desire to respond to what I've said is proof that you are a big baby." He's mystified that people don't respond to him being the bigger person.

Re:Not news to us, unfortunately... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705535)

Vi 4 3v3r!!!

Re:Not news to us, unfortunately... (4, Funny)

muyuubyou (621373) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705562)

Was that sarcasm? or are you just being a smartass?








</sarcasm>

Re:Not news to us, unfortunately... (2)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705578)

Whatever dude, use your own *sarcasm* tags. I'm tired of people always blaming the sender. To be offened you have to choose to be offended, irritated, upset, whatever the hell the receivers problem is. Quit trying to lay your mental instability on me!

(Note: This is my attempt at humor, if you don't like it you can KMA!)

Re:Not news to us, unfortunately... (2, Funny)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705625)

(Note: This is my attempt at humor, if you don't like it you can KMA!)

Cool! New Acronym! That's "Kill My Aunt", right? Said, done.

Re:Not news to us, unfortunately... (5, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705806)

I'm tired of people always blaming the sender. To be offened you have to choose to be offended, irritated, upset, whatever the hell the receivers problem is.

Humor or not, you do have a point. In formal communications it has always been considered important to maintain the best of manners and to always give the sender the benefit of the doubt. Otherwise, a fairly harmless letter exchange can quickly turn into a long slew of misunderstandings.

Once the Internet came along, senders and receivers alike began to believe that a formal tone was unnecessary to the otherwise informal communications. The result was that users began deciding the tone of the message by how new the sender was to the forum. If he was new, then his tone was automatically assumed hostile and his content full of stupidities. If he was old, then the tone was automatically seen as friendly and smart. This led to the situation of new forum members being forced to walk on eggshells until they were accepted by their peers.

---

As an example of of how important the tone is to a conversation, consider this real life situation: People who run into each other on a campus (such as college or work) regularly engage in a simple greeting exchange like this:

"How are you today?"
"Fine, thank you!"

Such greeting are ingrained into us as the way things are. But what if someone changes the message but uses the same tone? A story that was related to me was of a college student who amused herself with this exchange:

"How are you today?"
"Fine! To hell with you?"

Since she used the exact same tone as someone replying politely, very few individuals caught on to her rather rude retort. (Which, of course, produced no end of amusement for both her and her friends.)

---

Thankfully, there is one popular location on the Internet where formalized communication is still expected. (No, it's Slashdot.) If you have ever visited Wikipedia, you'll find that they encourage people to allows assume the best in their exchanges, and be careful about taking offense. If a communications breakdown occurs, then volunteers provide mediation to help to the two parties come to a better understanding of what each other is trying to say. In this way, miscommunications are usually kept from starting outright flamewars. Without these procedures, Wikipedia would have long ago devolved into nothing more than massive editing wars.

Re:Not news to us, unfortunately... (2, Funny)

s20451 (410424) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705611)

My in-depth study* of internet flame wars have shown that the root causes can be traced to these four men: 1 [tuxjournal.net] 2 [tomgpalmer.com] 3 [microsoft.com] 4 [aciprensa.com]

As a fun game, can you guess which one thinks he is the Son of God? (Hint: There is more than one answer.)

*By "in-depth study", I mean smart-ass remarks I thought up over my morning coffee.

Re:Not news to us, unfortunately... (0, Offtopic)

ceeam (39911) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705698)

The guy with the biggest JPEG?

TFA Generalizing? (2, Funny)

vain gloria (831093) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705712)

Kids, this is why it's so important to properly use your <sarcasm> tags and your emoticons!

Well, when you're communicating with Americans, certainly...

semicolon right parenthesis

Technology Fueled Escalation (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705491)

I think that because we are using advanced forms of technology to send information, we feel the need to make things develop more quickly.

If you and your friend are having an argument through e-mail, you probably feel that you have to cover the whole spectrum of abrasiveness with each e-mail you send. In real life, you would have the social tact to start out with statements and leave room for yourself to retract what you've said or to give a little ground and end up mutually agreeing on something.

What seems to be my problem with e-mail is that I send a message and I run the topic into the ground in that first e-mail (saying everything about it). Now, that's written in stone like a Slashdot comment. No backsies.

And the fact that he might not get the e-mail for a while makes me want to accelerate the severity of the issue since we don't want to take two weeks discussing it. Had we been more gradual at accelerating the argument, things said could probably have been avoided.
The Secret Cause of Flame Wars
Secret? Not quite. I might end an e-mail with "...screw Oasis and Weezer, every Beatles' album is far greater than all of theirs combined." Now, in real life, I'd say that with a malevolent shit-eating grin on my face signaling that I know it's not true. But my friend might read it and imagine me with a stone faced militant music-nazi expression and my finger pointing into his chest. What ensues is a standard flame war. The cause of this is no secret.

Re:Technology Fueled Escalation (2, Funny)

afaik_ianal (918433) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705722)

What seems to be my problem with e-mail is that I send a message and I run the topic into the ground in that first e-mail (saying everything about it). Now, that's written in stone like a Slashdot comment. No backsies.

I don't have that problem, because I'm always right to begin with.

Is that so? (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705805)

I don't have that problem, because I'm always right to begin with.
Although you may have said this in jest, I believe people with this attitude experience these problems the most.

THE SECRET IS THAT YOU MISERABLE SHITHEADS KEEP (1)

Sexual Asspussy (453406) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705493)

replying.

Paranoia in theory (2, Insightful)

Neo-Rio-101 (700494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705513)

Just goes to show that you should never assume that anyone is mean or out to get you, or react in such a way... or they will become VERY SOON!

Self-fulfilling prophecies, anyone?

Re:Paranoia in theory (1)

FuzzyBad-Mofo (184327) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705564)

PRINT ""+-0

Hey! You just crashed my Commodore..

Re:Paranoia in theory (4, Funny)

lbrandy (923907) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705607)

Man, all these jokes about the difficulty in detecting sarcasm are so funny!

well, let's test it then (5, Funny)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705516)

"I love Linux. It's great."

Serious or sarcastic? 10 euros for correct guess.

Re:well, let's test it then (1)

teslar (706653) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705573)

Serious. Now let me just create another account and say "Sarcastic"... thanks for the money!

Re:well, let's test it then (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705587)

10 euros, what the fuck is that, you fucking poofter. Go back to watching Bareback Mountain for the 29th time.

Re:well, let's test it then (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705605)

10 euros for correct guess.

I guess that one was not serious. Can I now have my 10 Euros please? :-)

Re:well, let's test it then (1)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705669)

Actually, it's a love/hate relationship.

Have 5.

*sends*

Re:well, let's test it then (0)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705770)

Oh thats easy to guess sarcasm!

How about trying to guess "I love Microsoft. It is so secure!"

I'll bet you 100... Oh wait... Nevermind...

Which is it? Better or worse than chance? (2, Interesting)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705521)

"People in our study were convinced they've accurately understood the tone of an e-mail message when in fact their odds are no better than chance,"

On it's face, this statement is incompatible with:

"In fact the recipients got it right just over 50 percent of the time."

It's no better than chance. It is better than Chance.

Nice going..

Another major flaw (3, Insightful)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705644)

This study took essentially random, disparate topics, from multiple boards, and sent them in emails, isolated from the context. Of course people are going to have a hard time ascertaining sincerity when they don't see the context! An meaningful study would have measured people's perceptions of posts on boards they regularly go to. The conclusion may be the same, but at least then it would be well-grounded.

Re:Which is it? Better or worse than chance? (2)

246o1 (914193) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705679)

Well, actually, chance can get heads 100 times in a row of a coin flip. He probably meant it was within the margin of error.

Re:Which is it? Better or worse than chance? (1)

Transient0 (175617) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705723)

if it's relatively close to fifty percent they can be forgiven the linguistic gloss. what bothers me more about that statement is the implication that CHANCE would get the tone correct 50% of the time. are there only two possible tones an e-mail can have?

Re:Which is it? Better or worse than chance? (1)

dustmite (667870) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705814)

Yup, it's ridiculous. Even if there were only two tones an e-mail could have, this also seems disconnected somehow from a rather obvious point of how well-written the messages were. Language use that is well thought out and well constructed would definitely improve the chances of the 'correct' tone being conveyed to the reader. Most of the misunderstandings I've seen in online discussions were simply the result of poor writing skills. Or poor reading skills, for that matter. This study also doesn't seem to say anything about the reading skills and intelligence of the readers.

Re:Which is it? Better or worse than chance? (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705762)

A message's tone was only accuratly guessed half the time, but the guesser believed to have accuratly guessed 90% of the time. In other words about half the time the guesser believes they have divined the tone of the message and are incorrect.

Re:Which is it? Better or worse than chance? (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705800)

It's no better than chance. It is better than Chance.

I would imagine that the difference from chance was statistically insignificant, even if it was marginally positive.

In any case, the real objection is extrapolating these numbers from a contrived data set to real world emails, with much more context, and also more than two possible interpretations.

The real question is... (2, Funny)

precize (83096) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705524)

...will flamebait comments on this story be considered informative?

Re:The real question is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705794)

What do you think?

Waaan (2, Funny)

VAXGeek (3443) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705528)

This is the best article I've seen posted in years! I thought /. was on the decline, but clearly it is just reaching its stride.

Ok, let's try this out... (2, Funny)

TimeForGuinness (701731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705531)

CowboyNeal solves all of my computer woes!

Choose:
A) Serious
B) Sarcastic

How flame wars really start. (3, Funny)

DeltaHat (645840) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705536)

You suck!

Re:How flame wars really start. (2, Funny)

TimeForGuinness (701731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705570)

No, you suck!

Re:How flame wars really start. (1)

kulakovich (580584) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705603)


Knowwot? Yer Hitler!

/summary

Re:How flame wars really start. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705623)

Godwin's law

2 Rules: (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705544)

1. Use emoticons and know how to read them.

2. When there are 2 ways to read something, assume the other end didn't want to offend you unless you have very good reason to assume they did (i.e. when the flame war is already running to the joy of the general audience).

Then again, if everyone knew those 2 rules and took them serious, trolls would probably go out on the street and set fire to real life objects... Maybe the world's better the way it is.

Re:2 Rules: (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705631)

1. Use emoticons and know how to read them.
%^:$()-

You're an idiot. :) (4, Funny)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705657)

Sorry, couldn't resist.

At work, I find myself peppering my e-mails with these damn cute smiley emoticons even though I feel like a teenage girl (which I'm not, even on the Internet). Sometimes I'll respond with a terse message that basically says "I fixed your damn user error", and then add a smiley face at the end.

I think it means that I'm secretly passive-agressive, trying to cover it up with cute little characters.

:P

No surprise... (3, Insightful)

PornMaster (749461) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705550)

That much of communication is non-verbal is quite known. When it comes to business communication, it seems like the treacherous part of this is that so many people are using e-mail and IM for informal communication, and insert so much of our personality into our messages. They're simply not nearly as professional as letters were in the past.

Re:No surprise... (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705745)

They're simply not nearly as professional as letters were in the past.. Absobloodylutely. Flamebait is clearly not what it used to be. Once upon a time flamebait [agniart.ru] was proper flamebait.

IRC (2, Interesting)

techefnet (634210) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705551)

Real Time chat (like IRC) is much more convinient than emails. I feel that it's often easier to understand tone on IRC.

What about (1)

3CRanch (804861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705554)

I dunno, a lot of the flamebait that I've seen hasn't been necessarily based on the tone of the commentary. It has been due to the stupidity of the comments listed therein.

I wonder if it is 50/50 chance for the interpretation of dumb-ass-ed-ness.

Re:What about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705787)

"I dunno, a lot of the flamebait that I've seen hasn't been necessarily based on the tone of the commentary. It has been due to the stupidity of the comments listed therein."

Well, aren't you a smart one!

Serious or Sarcastic? (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705556)

The researchers took 30 pairs of undergraduate students and gave each one a list of 20 statements about topics like campus food or the weather. Assuming either a serious or sarcastic tone, one member of each pair e-mailed the statements to his or her partner. The partners then guessed the intended tone and indicated how confident they were in their answers. Those who sent the messages predicted that nearly 80 percent of the time their partners would correctly interpret the tone. In fact the recipients got it right just over 50 percent of the time."

I call BS on that one, how can they say this stuff?
How can they figure anything conclusively in a study with a group of 60 students?
The recipients can't decide what is sarcastic or not?
WTF?

((Which half were you on? I was just being sarcastic.))

Re:Serious or Sarcastic? (1)

Tango42 (662363) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705620)

Actually, sarcasm aside, you make a good point. It's a very small sample, and they didn't do a control test with the same group talking to eachother out loud to compare it to - maybe they just picked 60 Americans. (Now, Americans can assume I'm being sarcastic and everyone else can know otherwise - you've got to love articles about sarcasm, so much scope.)

Re:Serious or Sarcastic? (3, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705737)

Well, if you really did make that post without the disclaimer there's really no hint of sarcasm in your post. If you're making a snide comment it's really your job to convey that. If someone takes it the wrong way and you didn't make some kind of effort to convey tone, that's really your fault in not communicating properly.

Re:Serious or Sarcastic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705759)

I call BS on that one, how can they say this stuff?

Maybe they're being sarcastic.

It's an important skill (2, Insightful)

Tango42 (662363) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705559)

Being able to correctly interpret messages in text form is a skill, if you're good at it you can get far more than 50% right. My rule of thumb is simple - assume the best, in other words, only be insulted if you're sure. Or put another way - "If you're in any doubt about whether or not I intended to insult you, I didn't. If I had, you'd know it."

Re:It's an important skill (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705687)

Of course the problem is that people are usually not in doubt even when wrong. In which case your rule won't help.

This study makes one critical assumption (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705565)

That all flame wars erupt from somebody misunderstanding another persons tone in email.

In most of my experience, most flame wars kick in because of old fashioned beligerance. People see somebody that disagrees with them, and has the courage to say things that they wouldn't say to the other person's face, by virtue of being separated by miles of network cable.

Now everybody that disagrees with me is a G4Y A55FUK3R!

It's Vim's fault (5, Funny)

H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705579)

Actually, most flamewars are caused by Vim being much worse than Emacs.

Re:It's Vim's fault (2, Funny)

mshmgi (710435) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705648)

You are such an idiot!!!!! Everybody knows that Windows/Linux is much more contentious than your petty little VIM/Emacs squabbles. Why don't you start paying attention to the REAL issues - idiot!

Re:It's Vim's fault (2, Funny)

aurb (674003) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705784)

Now, now, there's no need to start a flame on whitch topic causes more flames.

Re:It's Vim's fault (4, Funny)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705705)

I'd chime in here but I'm still waiting for Emacs to load so I'm not sure which one I like better yet.

Re:It's Vim's fault (1)

PurpleButter (928282) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705706)

About the only fault Vim has in ragard to flames is the lack of the following command:

:set fire-to-emacs=on

Re:It's Vim's fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705707)

But where does 'jed' fall in that continuum?

Re:It's Vim's fault (2, Funny)

squoozer (730327) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705813)

Everyone knows that Emacs is better. The real reason most flamewars start is the because Java is fast and better than .NET.

The Illuminati (5, Funny)

ettlz (639203) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705582)

Since the end of World War 2, a clandestine, shadowy organisation known colloquially as "The Illuminati" has been secretly instigating and orchestrating all major flamewars. Conflicts such as the Tannenbaum Crisis, and the ongoing battles at comp.os.ms-windows.advocacy were all sparked by this bunch as part of their twisted plan to control the world packet flow through decreasing the SNR on the Internet, and when it finally collapses, replace it with their evil commie New World Protocol. Fight the evil!

You know who they are.

They know who they are.

Don't you people ever read Indymedia? It's all in there!

sarcasm? americans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705583)

sarcasm? americans?

hmm...

This just in... (2, Insightful)

boldtbanan (905468) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705585)

Simple statements with little or no context (and statements taken out of context) are misunderstood ~50% of the time.

--Captain Obvious

Re:This just in... (2, Insightful)

macklin01 (760841) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705668)

Mod parent up.

From what little details can be gathered from the article, the 20 statements were read and rated in isolation. Context is important in determining the tone of any statement, regardless of whether its spoken or written. Of course, in spoken language there's body language and, well, tone, to help, but the context is still very important.

In fact, the tone of an isolated statement can also contrast with the overall tone of the conversation, so the tone of the isolated statement may not be helpful in a face-to-face conversation, either.

So, while the study sounds interesting, I think it would be more interesting if they had used larger statements with context to see if the trends held. Perhaps they did this and the articles did poor reporting, but that's what I would think would need to be done. Interesting stuff, though. -- Paul

It's not necessarily the tone of a posting (1)

Zog The Undeniable (632031) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705604)

In Usenet groups with a relatively small number of regular contributors, you frequently have a couple of individuals who have disagreed over an issue in the past and will immediately shoot down anything the other says out of principle. Likewise, you get the obvious interloper from another group who will post deliberate flamebait occasionally; the uk.rec.cycling and uk.rec.driving groups have long been plagued by this.

I'd love to name names, but I won't ;-)

most communication is non-verbal (1)

DeveloperAdvantage (923539) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705606)

When talking to another person, typically more information is conveyed non-verbally (including body language and spoken tone) than through the meaning of the actual words that are spoken.

This is one of the reasons why, for any profession where communication is important, it is difficult to replace face-to-face meetings with telephone calls or emails.

Of course, although body langauge and tone provide additional information, specific factual information must be conveyed by words and/or diagrams.

A solved problem...? (1)

Manip (656104) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705612)

We have been writing epic stories for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and in which we've had to express complex emotions... So why can't we do the same over e-mail and or IM?

If you ask me we can't because everyone isn't an English grad' and likes to use as few words as they can get away with. Emoticons can help, giving indications to the meaning ...

I like Microsoft's now dead cartoon chat, in which your 'character' displayed emotions for you -- like emoticons but to an extreme. Too bad it never took off.

I don't think this is a problem we can fix. But sooner or later e-mail and or IM will be dead, and we will be using internet voice chat and or video communications much more widely.

Failure of sender and recipient (1)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705621)

For centuries, the "tone" of written litters, has been fairly easy to ascertain. My guess is that because letters took some time to arrive, because instant communication wasn't possible, that writers took great pains to make their intent absolutely clear. Any corrections or clarifications would be a long time coming, so extra effort was merited. Now, however, writers can be sloppy - if they weren't clear in the first place, they can quickly send multiple follow-ups explaining things.

The recipient is also to blame. People have gotten quite sloppy with their reading - they go for the gist, and completely ignore the nuance of a written work these days. I cannot say how many times I have said, in an email, "I am emphatically NOT saying XYZ" and then had someone respond with "Why are you saying XYZ!?" People nowadays seem to hear what they want to hear, read what they want to read from a thing, and spend very little time looking for the author's intent.

What I find most interesting about this phenomena is that it seems to be done in the name of speed, and yet that very quest for faster communications is causing people to lose information and spend more time on pointless flame wars due to misunderstandings - overall slowing things down and leading to a less fruitful discussion than would have been had if people took the time to express themselves more clearly up front, and to take the time to read what someone actually wrote to them.

To very clearly show the difference between the older mode of correspondence and the current one, go and get a book of the letters of any number of historical figures. Both sides take great pains to express themselves and understand the other person, something that we very rarely do today.

Re:Failure of sender and recipient (0, Offtopic)

spitek (942062) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705750)

For Sure! Yes Yes! Bravo!! *clapping*****

*clap* *clap*

Dad and the Girl are the worst! Come on people!! A little...... effort... pppp...lll..ease?

While I do... (1)

borawjm (747876) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705624)

think that it can be particularly difficult to convey emotion in a text message, I feel that most people are fairly aware of when they are "flaming" someone and, in fact, do so with intent. The somewhat anomousity of the internet makes it a perfect breeding ground for such acts.

This article (1)

SlashDread (38969) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705628)

Is more sarcastic than I care for, foo! shame! flame!

Duh! (1)

sielwolf (246764) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705636)

This is why you use emoticons, you dumb bastards ;p

When reading we use a dry voice for internal monologue that lacks any of the subtle registers we use in conveying emotion in our conversation. So anything we read comes off very stark. The problem is that most people writing completely ignore this and use a bunch of ironic or sardonic elements that get read as harsh vitrol. This is one reason why you should wait 24 hours after writing a harsh email: when you reread it, it will lack any of the subjectivity you had when writing it and you'll read it as if for the first time (and, hopefully find the bits that would have pissed off folks something fierce). The same way, it's good to use emoticons to soften all bits in the gray area. Heck, even managers do it now. :D

"Crafty consumer" phenomenon (4, Interesting)

LarsWestergren (9033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705638)

Another reason for flame wars online, especially with regards to games, and on Slashdot, programming languages -

A friend who studied psychology talked to me about the "crafty consumer" phenomenon. If we have purchased something we have looked forward to, we will disregard negative things about this and might even become angry if friends point out flaws in the product to us. This is because we all want to think that we are crafty consumers who have made the smart choice. Of course, WE would never fall for advertising, we think. So when evidence mounts that the purchase wasn't as good as we thought, we resist facing it until the evidence is overwhelming. Then it is a blow to our self-esteem and might even cause a depression ("Maybe I'm not as smart as I thought I was... and all that money wasted...").

This can be even more amplified here on Slashdot when someone criticizes something that we have spent a lot of time and intellectual effort to grasp. When someone bash our favourite language, we think our anger comes because we feel "love" for the language, but it has probably more to that with the fact that it is a blow against our major source of pride - our intellectual capabilites. And if the language is not as good as we thought, it might take a long time to learn a new language as well. So in time of economic downturn the stress of increased job insecurity, we get angrier and defensive more easily. See my sig... :-)

Dickens didn't take any chances. (2, Funny)

zenwarrior (81710) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705640)

Hmmm,...50-50? It appears Charles Dickens was no fool. That explains his following CYA:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity...."

And in the same paragraph, he predicted Slashdot:

"...its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

A lesson well learned (1)

PurpleButter (928282) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705649)

Interestingly, it took a graduate course in communication for this to hit home to me. It's a simple fact that the written word (not just email) has a much higher chance of being misinterpreted than, say, a conversation on the phone. Or better yet, a conversation in person.

For this reason, I always keep away from any discussion of serious issues in email. Whether its an argument with the wife, an important issue with the boss or whatever, this rule of thumb has helped me stay out of trouble for the past decade or so.

Lucky for me, I was in college before I started using email and talk. No IM in those days. Kids these days aren't so lucky. Teenagers, for example, react quickly and emotionally anyway (read: drama), even in person. I can see how many of them can get themselves in to trouble "chatting" with their friends online, rather than just picking up the stupid phone and actually talking with eachother.

cars (1)

goarilla (908067) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705653)

I always thoughed flame wars were started to make up for something small ... like big cars

So she's not serious... (1)

DJ Rubbie (621940) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705659)

I guess all those times when I think the chick was interested at me was only a 50-50 guess...

Never be deceived by those ^^;; or :D or whatnot, because she might just be doing that for her own amusement.

Re:So she's not serious... (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705781)

I guess all those times when I think the chick was interested at me was only a 50-50 guess...

50-50? Pah. I can tell with very nearly 100% accuracy whether a girl's interested in me - and the accuracy is the same whether it's by email, IM, or face to face.

The decision method?

if 1=1(
girl_is_interested = false
)

It's been running for many years and has yet to throw a false positive that I've been aware of.

50-50 is not the same as chance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705675)

if there are more than two possible outcomes. I wouldn't mind being able to predict winning lotto numbers 50% of the time.

Sticks and Stones (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705676)

It's even simpler than anyone gives it credit for: it's an outgrowth of competitiveness. Flame wars occur usually because two people, polar opposites on an issue, come to loggerheads over the issue and begin lobbing verbal grenades at each other. This leads to bystanders joining in the fray and pretty soon even people who have no idea what started it or what it's about are firing their ill-thought sarcasm at others like a TOT artillery barrage.

I saw it on USENET for years before the modern incarnation of the Internet as Web came along. It's like rams at rutting time; they will bang their heads together heedless of the damage.

uh (1)

qw0ntum (831414) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705685)

The real cause of flamewars is to post a story about the cause of flamewars.

I find this hard to believe... (2, Insightful)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705688)

I find this hard to believe. In fact, I'd say the "karma" system here is a good indicator of why it's hard to believe.

I don't think most people are shocked at what the moderator action is to any one of their particular posts. This is why some people preface what they are about to say with, "Mod me as you will...", or "I know I'll burn karma for this but...". People know.

The problem isn't with being able to convey intent with email (words). The problem is with SEMI-LITERATE PEOPLE trying to convey, and conversely intepret, intent with email.

If you take the time to be clear and articulate, there is no way it can only be 50/50 on someone understanding your intent, unless you are speaking to an absolute moron.

Steve

Re:I find this hard to believe... (1)

stealth.c (724419) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705758)

I agree wholeheartedly. Perhaps the survey is correct anyway since the vast majority of people writing and sending these emails are semi-literate. A huge number of people graduate from college in the U.S. who have the reading and writing skills (and often manners) of a sixth grader. There should be another study conducted among the literate.

Writing (3, Insightful)

Apreche (239272) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705694)

It is difficult for most people to ascertain the tone of written communication due to their poor reading skills and the poor writing skills of the sender. Idiots need to go back to elementary school to learn something about grammar.

Can you guess the tone of this comment?

PRECISE DICTION (5, Insightful)

stealth.c (724419) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705711)

This is why precise diction--speaking and writing clearly--is necessary. It is often just as much the fault of the writer as it is the reader when a message's tone is misinterpreted.

There are devices such as certain words, punctuations or even emoticons that can help you give your message the flavor of meaning that you want it to have, provided you know how to use them correctly.

The skill to write well is a thousand times more valuable today than most people give it credit for. In a time when so much of our worldwide communication is written, we have to know how to properly build a written message instead of simply writing what we would speak and assume the reader will "get" it. You never know when you might offend someone.

What the researchers are saying (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705725)

is that we're so stupid we jump to the conslusions that read insulting insinuations into things people write, and what's more we're so immature that we unthinkingly escalate the situation with hostile and sarcastic responses.

It's good to know our social "scientists" are spending our tax money on such important "research".

This is a great piece of research (1)

iapetus (24050) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705738)

Because all of my emails consist entirely of pre-selected statements that I've been given, and none of the people I communicate with have developed an appreciation of how my writing style changes when I'm being sarcastic.

Not a surprise. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705746)

Hell, *I* don't even know when I'm being sarcastic anymore (thanks, K5!)

It's not because we can't, it's because we won't (4, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705753)

The English language (and even more so, in some other cases) is well equipped with nuanced words and structures that can accurately convey meaning, intent, tone, and information both simple and complex. Of course context is vital, but one of the most important considerations in any form of communication is an ability to preview what you're about to convey from the audience's point of view. When you send an e-mail to an informed co-worker, the circumstances surrounding the note probably make sense... but may not to the person to whom she forwards it.

Most folks simply don't have the skill, or take the time, to craft a message that carries its context with it. The ironic flip side to this is that when someone does take more time to write a more solid, contextually portable note, people not used to digesting that sort of thing presume it's either pretentious, condescending, or just verbose for the sake of verbosity. This is a cultural thing, and speaks to the continuing erosion in critical thinking skills and the obligation families feel to pass them along to children.

Anyone good with rhetoric knows how important it is to put yourself in your audience's shoes before opening your yap. The clearest communicators I know are the ones that are the most broadly exposed to the world at large, and take a deep breath before saying/typing anything, the better to ask themselves: will the person about to receive this e-mail get it? Five extra seconds can save hours of backpeddling, re-explaining something, or salvaging that business/personal relationship. But we've switched to celebrating speed and quantity of noise over quality of actual communication. This isn't going away any time soon, especially when entire generations are hitting their first email-enabled actual jobs thinking that "Dude" is an entire sentence.

The plague that is the use of "like" among teenagers (and stunted-growth adults) is at the heart of this. When some 16-year-old encounters a friend in the mall and says, "So, I was like..." and rolls eyes in a re-enactment of experiencing the emotions surrounding some other social interchange, the message gets across. That even works on the phone ("I was like, 'oh no you did-unt'"). But when all of the social warm-and-fuzzies that a young person feels happen without the need for a multi-syllable vocabulary, we can't wonder why they suck at both investing rich meaning in, and parsing full meaning from the written word.

I disagree (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705760)

I disagree that this is the main cause of flame wars!

2nd degree sarcasm since 1981

Metamoderation problems? (1)

db32 (862117) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705763)

So what does it mean when the metamoderation thing says that 90% or so of the users agree on the tone, and the research says that only 50% of the time the tone is correctly guessed? Kinda causes a breakdown in the whole moderation system doesn't it? I suppose that also means that by attempting to post something that may get modded up, you really are doing nothing more than gambling. So the highest karma people should probably be checked into gambling help groups!

Re:Metamoderation problems? (1)

db32 (862117) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705786)

Damn! I forgot to link my mood.xls and use tags! please don't mod me down!

You all know that.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705771)

Windows suk0rs big balls!!!

Pengiuns forever!

Oh.. opps. just made so much sence (1)

spitek (942062) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705802)

And I thought they where talking about spitting wars between flamers. It would be a contest to see who could write something that could be taken two completely different ways. Then no conclusion.

Bah! The cause isn't secret at all! (1)

Yeechang Lee (3429) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705807)

For me, flame wars start for one reason and one reason only. As Dr. Evil [imdb.com] put it so well:

"Why must I be surrounded by frickin' idiots?"

Claiming any other reason as a cause is naturally, ipso facto, evidence for the above. So there.
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